Do Divorce Law Reforms Matter for Divorce Rates? Evidence from Portugal


*Nuno Garoupa, School of Economics and Management, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Campus de Campolide, P-1099 032 Lisbon, Portugal. Clarisse Coelho, Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Nuno Garoupa, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, FEDEA, Madrid, CEPR, London.


The effect of divorce law reforms on divorce rates in the United States and elsewhere has generated a controversy in the law and economics literature. In this article, we study the contribution of divorce law reforms for the evolution of divorce rates in Portugal over the last 40 years. We focus on the reforms of divorce law in the 1970s and in the 1990s as well as socioeconomic factors as determinants of the divorce rate. We find that the introduction of a modern divorce law in the 1970s had a significant effect on the divorce rate, but the changes of the 1990s that effectively implemented a generalized no-fault regime had no statistically significant impact. Our observations suggest that the reforms in the 1990s were likely the response of the legislature to growing divorce rates rather than the cause.