Age at Marriage and Marital Stability: Causal Evidence From a Legal Reform in China

Jorge GarcĂ­a-Hombrados , London School of Economics
Berkay Ozcan, London School of Economics

An early age at first marriage has been associated with a high risk of divorce. This study uses census data to investigate the causal link between age at marriage and marital stability for women, exploiting the introduction in 1981 of a law that reduced the legal age of marriage in China. The law generated kinks in the legal age of marriage faced by women of different ages, which are exploited in a Regression Kink Design (RKD) to assess the effect of age at marriage on the probability of divorce over the following 20 years. The analysis shows that once causal techniques are applied, the strong negative association between age at marriage and divorce that we found in the data vanishes completely, suggesting the existence of unobservable factors explaining both timing of marriage and the likelihood of divorce.

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 Presented in Session 9. Marriage, Family, Households, & Unions; Gender, Race, & Ethnicity