Gone to War

Have Deployments Increased Divorces?

Published In: Journal of Population Economics, v. 27, no. 2, Apr. 2014, p. 473-496

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2013

by Sebastian Negrusa, Brighita Negrusa, James Hosek

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Owing to the armed conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, members of the US military have experienced very high rates of deployment overseas. Because military personnel have little to no control over their deployments, the military setting offers a unique opportunity to study the causal effect of major disruptions on marital dissolution. In this paper, we use longitudinal individual-level administrative data from 1999 to 2008 and find that an additional month in deployment increases the divorce hazard of military families, with females being more affected. A standard conceptual framework of marital formation and dissolution predicts a differential effect of these types of shocks depending on the degree to which they are anticipated when a couple gets married. Consistent with this prediction, we find a larger effect for couples married before 9/11, who clearly expected a lower risk of deployment than what they faced post 9/11.

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