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Citation Information

Type Working Paper
Title Impacts of Changes in Marriage Law: Implications for Fertility and Educational Attainment of Women
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
URL http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1091789
In 1957 the state of Mississippi amended its marriage law. Changes included raising the minimum age for men and women, parental consent requirements, compulsory blood tests and proof of age. As a result, the number of marriages performed in Mississippi fell by more than 60 percent in 2 years. This paper examines the causal impact of the change in marriage law on marriage rates, fertility and educational attainment of women who were affected by the change in law. After the passage of the law, marriage rates declined sharply, and as a result, fertility declined and educational attainment increased. The results are much stronger for blacks than for whites. The black marriage rate among 19-23 year old women in the affected states declined by around 14% over that of the decline in the unaffected states. Black women in this age group also had 0.3 fewer children, and had a 9% higher probability of being enrolled in school. In addition, black women affected by the law change obtained nearly an extra year of schooling as compared to black women not affected by this law change. Among whites, the results are qualitatively similar, though weaker in magnitude and statistical significance. Hence, barriers to marriage can have significant implications for reducing fertility and increasing educational attainment of women.

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