Is “Best Interest of the Child” Best for Every Child? the Long-Term Implications of Gender-Neutral Custody Laws
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
While standard household bargaining models predict that changes in custody laws give fathers greater bargaining power in marriages, the net effect of the custody law reform on all children is unknown. We exploit the exogenous variation across states in the timing of custody law changes to estimate the long-term implications of exposure to a gender-neutral custody law regime.
We find that childhood exposure to gender-neutral custody laws has a negative and significant effect on educational attainment, both the likelihood of completion of schooling milestones and years of education. For example, a man exposed to the new custody law as a child is less likely to graduate from high school by, on average, 2.04 percentage points. Results are similar for women. Moreover, the negative effects are independent of the effects of childhood exposure to unilateral divorce laws.