Did Births Decline after the Enactment of No-Fault Divorce Law in the United States?
Paul A. Nakonezny, University of North Texas
Joseph Lee Rodgers, University of Oklahoma
Kristen Shaw, University of North Texas
Previous research has demonstrated that U.S. no-fault divorce laws implemented between 1953 and 1987 resulted in more divorces in 34 states than would have occurred otherwise. In the other 16 states, divorce patterns appeared to follow prevailing trends even after implementation of no-fault divorce legislation. A more distal question is whether implementation of no-fault divorce laws had an effect on birth rates. We analyzed state-level birth data from all 50 states to assess the birth response to the enactment of no-fault divorce law in each state. Results suggested that birth rates decreased significantly two-to-four years following the enactment of no-fault divorce law for the group of 34 states whose divorce rates responded to no-fault divorce legislation. As predicted, among the 16 states whose divorce rates did not respond to no-fault divorce legislation, the enactment of no-fault divorce law had a small and nonsignificant positive influence on birth rates.