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Marriage and Trust: Some Lessons from Economics

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  • Rowthorn, Robert
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    Abstract

    This paper examines the role of marriage as an institution for providing couples with the confidence to make long-term investments in their relationship. No-fault divorce has undermined the notion of marriage as a contract, thereby reducing the security offered by marriage and promoting opportunism by men. This has weakened the bargaining power of wives, both within marriage and when divorce occurs. Current legal reforms will improve the economic position of all divorced wives, including those who are primarily responsible for the breakdown of their marriage. The latter feature will encourage opportunism by women and make men less prepared to invest in their marriage. The paper argues that the only way to achieve parity between men and women, and deter opportunism by either sex, is to return to fault-based divorce. Both divorce settlements and the custody of children should depend on preceding marital conduct. Copyright 1999 by Oxford University Press.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Cambridge Journal of Economics.

    Volume (Year): 23 (1999)
    Issue (Month): 5 (September)
    Pages: 661-91

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    Handle: RePEc:oup:cambje:v:23:y:1999:i:5:p:661-91

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    Cited by:
    1. Steven Horwitz & Peter Lewin, 2008. "Heterogeneous human capital, uncertainty, and the structure of plans: A market process approach to marriage and divorce," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 1-21, March.
    2. Viitanen, Tarja, 2011. "Parental Divorce and Generalized Trust," IZA Discussion Papers 5898, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Viitanen, Tarja, 2014. "The Divorce Revolution and Generalized Trust: Evidence from the United States 1973-2010," IZA Discussion Papers 7966, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Did Unilateral Divorce Laws Raise Divorce Rates? A Reconciliation and New Results," Research Papers 1819, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    5. Ian Smith, 2003. "The Law and Economics of Marriage Contracts," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(2), pages 201-226, 04.
    6. Fahn, Matthias & Rees, Ray, 2014. "Household Relational Contracts for Marriage, Fertility and Divorce," Discussion Papers in Economics 20834, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    7. Homero Cuevas, 2000. "La teoría económica, el afecto y la familia," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 2(2), pages 13-36, January-J.

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