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Uncertain Paternity, Mating Market Failure, and the Institution of Marriage

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  • Dirk Bethmann
  • Michael Kvasnicka

Abstract

This paper provides a first microeconomic foundation for the institution of marriage. Based on a model of reproduction, mating, and parental investment in children, we argue that marriage serves the purpose of attenuating the risk of mating market failure that arises from incomplete information on individual paternity. Raising the costs of mating to individuals, marriage circumscribes female infidelity and mate poaching among men, which reduces average levels of paternal uncertainty in society. A direct gain in male utility, the latter induces men to invest more in their putative offspring, a fact that benefits women because of the public good nature of children. Able to realize Pareto improvements, marriage as an institution is hence explained as the result of a societal consensus on the need to organize and structure mating behavior and reproduction in society for the benefit of paternal certainty and biparental investment in offspring.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany in its series SFB 649 Discussion Papers with number SFB649DP2007-013.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hum:wpaper:sfb649dp2007-013

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Keywords: Marriage; Mating; Paternal Uncertainty; Parental Investment.;

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  2. Cox, Donald, 1990. "Intergenerational Transfers and Liquidity Constraints," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 187-217, February.
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  14. Jonathan Gruber, 2004. "Is Making Divorce Easier Bad for Children? The Long-Run Implications of Unilateral Divorce," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(4), pages 799-834, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Michael Kvasnicka & Dirk Bethmann, 2007. "World War II, Missing Men, and Out-of-wedlock Childbearing," Discussion Paper Series 0730, Institute of Economic Research, Korea University.

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