Child-Custody Reform and Marriage-Specific Investment in Children
Nunley, John M.
Research on child custody primarily focuses on the well-being of children following divorce. We extend this literature by examining how the prospect of joint child custody affects marriage-specific investment in children’s private-school education. Variation in the timing of joint-custody reforms across states proxies for the prospect of joint child custody and provides a natural experiment framework with which to examine marriage-specific investment in children. The probability of children’s private school attendance declines by 13 percent in states that adopt joint-custody laws. The effects of joint-custody reform are larger in states that have property-division laws that consistently favor one parent over the other. The results are largely robust for subsamples partitioned by socioeconomic status.
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