Do Spouses Negotiate in the Shadow of the Law? Evidence from Unilateral Divorce, Suicides, and Homicides in Mexico
with Lauren Hoehn-Velasco
Accepted: Economics Letters
In this paper, we analyze whether state-level no-fault divorce reforms in Mexico led to declines in the homicide and suicide rates. Using an event-study design, we find that the unilateral reform had no impact on state-level suicide rates or homicide rates. This finding contrasts with results from high-income countries (Stevenson and Wolfers, 2006; Brassiolo, 2016). To reconcile the differences from the existing literature, we show that intimate partner violence did not decline following the reform, which corroborates related studies (Garcıa-Ramos, 2019). The combined results suggest that in Mexico, women are less able to escape abusive marriages through a divorce.
Wife vs. Husband: Does It Matter Who Answers the Survey?
In the media: World Bank Development Impact Blog
Information on household assets is often used to conduct empirical research and to guide public policy. When using these variables, practitioners assume that they are less susceptible to misreporting. To test this assumption, the current study employs data from poor households participating in Mexico's PROGRESA program. The same questions regarding household assets were asked of both the wife and the husband. The study finds the following: (1) There were major discrepancies in the information reported between the spouses. For example, there was disagreement among 24% of the couples as to the possession of a washing machine. (2) The latter result has consequences for identifying families living in poverty. For example, if husbands were to be asked, 10.1% of the households would be classified as non-poor, but classified as poor if wives were to be asked. (3) The discrepancies observed can be partially explained by women's bargaining power. In particular, if wives earned more income than their husbands, the discrepancies in the information reported decreased. These findings emerged as robust when applying a bounding strategy for omitted variable bias developed by Oster (2017), and when using an instrumental variable approach for measurement error following Lewbel (2012). Overall, these findings suggest that survey information on household assets is not free of misreporting, and that who answers the survey matters.
Is Economic Growth Good for Women's Empowerment Within the Household?
Economic growth can generate employment opportunities for women and improve their bargaining power within the household. However, it can also have negative consequences for women's empowerment if the patterns of growth generate forms of employment that favor male workers. In addition, little is known about which economic sectors positively or negatively affect women's empowerment within the household. This paper analyzes the effect of economic growth on women's empowerment within the household in Mexico. The empowerment of women is measured through three dimensions: personal freedom, perception of gender roles, and participation in household decisions. Using three samples taken from 2006 to 2016 of a national-state representative survey specializing in women's empowerment, economic growth at the sector level, and state fixed-effects models, the results indicate the following: (1) economic growth in the construction sector increased women's personal freedom; (2) economic growth in cultural services decreased the perception of gender roles that favor men; (3) economic growth in the transportation sector increased the participation of women in household decisions; and (4) evidence of heterogeneous effects whose main beneficiaries were less educated and indigenous women.
Unilateral Divorce and Women's Empowerment
Edgardo Buscaglia ALACDE Empirical Research in Law and Economics Award
There is evidence that unilateral divorce decreases domestic violence and improves the bargaining power of women within households. Yet, this evidence mainly comes from developed countries and little is known about the effect of unilateral divorce in developing countries. This paper analyzes the effect of unilateral divorce in Mexico on labor supply of women, bargaining power, and intimate partner violence (IPV). Using a national-state representative survey that focuses on women's empowerment and applying a difference-in-differences strategy, the results show: (1) unilateral divorce increased intimate partner violence (IPV); (2) there is no evidence that unilateral divorce affected the women's bargaining power within the household; and (3) there is evidence of heterogeneous effects regarding female labor supply. In particular, married women with young children participated more in the labor market, while married women without young children participated less. Unilateral divorce can be a mechanism that reduces violent relationships; however, it may have unintended consequences for women who remain married.
Girls vs. Boys: Who is Dropping Out of School Because of Bullying?
Despite the rising interest in bullying, there is little evidence about its effects on dropping out of school, and this evidence suffers from the problem of omitted variable bias. To understand the effect of bullying on dropping out of school, I exploit a rich data set of adolescents between 13 and 17 years old from families participating in the Mexican conditional cash transfer program PROGRESA. Boys experience higher rates of bullying than girls, but bullying affects only girls' probability of dropping out of school. In particular, a one standard deviation increase of being bullied increases girls' probability of dropping out of school by 5 percentage points. To address the problem of omitted variables, I implement a bounding strategy and an instrumental variable approach. The bounding and instrumental variable strategies suggest that this result is robust to omitted variable bias.
The Impact of Earthquakes on Women's Mental Health
(with Juan Enrique Huerta-Wong, Julieth Santamaria, and Isidro Soloaga)
This paper analyzes the effects of earthquakes that impacted Mexico on women's mental health and substance abuse in 2017. Using a difference-in-differences approach we find: (1) the earthquakes have negative consequences on women's mental health; (2) we do not find evidence that the earthquakes increased the consumption of alcohol or cigarettes; (3) we find evidence of factors that worsen women's mental health (such as perception of insecurity), and others that help women to be more resilient (such as family size); and (4) women who received psychological support improved some measures of mental health, yet we do not observe this result for all the measures analyzed. It is estimated that 27% of the population in Mexico is exposed to earthquakes. To face this situation, the Mexican government has implemented the Fund for Natural Disasters (FONDEN). This fund is used to distribute food and money for reconstruction. Yet, it is necessary to analyze the possibility of extending its support to the attention of mental health.