Separate marital property and divorce: a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Roberto Impicciatore, Università degli Studi di Milano
Alessandro Rosina, Università Cattolica, Milan

In Italy, the separate property regime(i.e. not community property regime), which implies an explicit choice at the time of marriage, seems to be positively related to instability since the percentage of marriages ended in divorce or separation is significantly higher among those who have chosen the system of separation of property. From the causal point of view, the separation of property may shed a latent shadow on mutual trust. Moreover, the couple could think that separation as a final solution of a marital crisis could be less problematic. In other words, this decision may be seen as a self-fulfilling prophecy: the protection from the risk of divorce and its consequences encourages the choice of the separation of assets, however this option itself promotes marital instability. An alternative explanation is based on selectivity: the separation property regime is pursued by more fragile couple with an higher risk of divorce. Using micro-level data from a multipurpose, nationally-representative survey called “Famiglia e soggetti sociali (FSS)”and developing multi-process models, we can disentangle casual effects by selection effects. The main results show that the apparent increased disruption risk among couples who choose the separate property system is not causal and can be explained as a selection process. Simultaneous equation models do not confirm the presence of a protective effect towards the risks of instability caused by the sharing of assets between the two spouses.

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Presented in Session 45: Determinants and consequences of union dissolution