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A theory of rational marriage and divorce

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  • Barham, Vicky
  • Devlin, Rose Anne
  • Yang, Jie

Abstract

Despite high rates of cohabitation before marriage, and considerable efforts invested in the search for a life partner, a high number of marriages end in divorce. This paper develops a model of household formation and dissolution in which it may be rational for individuals to marry, fully anticipating that they will subsequently divorce. Economies of scale associated with living as a couple rather than in two separate households provide an incentive to marry; problems with free riding in the provision of household collective goods may lead to divorce. Marriages which involve partners who are similar, in tastes or in their productive capacities, and in which private goods are equally shared, are the most likely to be stable. In contrast, marriages which involve very disparate partners, or which share the fruits of market labor very unequally between the partners, are more likely to be shortlived and end in divorce.

Suggested Citation

  • Barham, Vicky & Devlin, Rose Anne & Yang, Jie, 2009. "A theory of rational marriage and divorce," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 93-106, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:53:y:2009:i:1:p:93-106
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    Cited by:

    1. Qari, Salmai, 2014. "Marriage, adaptation and happiness: Are there long-lasting gains to marriage?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 29-39.
    2. David De La Croix & Fabio Mariani, 2015. "From Polygyny to Serial Monogamy: A Unified Theory of Marriage Institutions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(2), pages 565-607.
    3. Meier, Volker & Rainer, Helmut, 2012. "On the optimality of joint taxation for noncooperative couples," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 633-641.
    4. Domenico Tabasso, 2011. "With or Without You: Hazard of Divorce and Intra-household Allocation of Time," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2011n07, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    5. Tabasso, D, 2009. "With or Without You: Time Use Complementarities and Divorce Rate in the US," Economics Discussion Papers 8937, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
    6. Dan Anderberg & Helmut Rainer & Kerstin Roeder, 2016. "Family-Specific Investments and Divorce: A Theory of Dynamically Inconsistent Household Behavior," CESifo Working Paper Series 5996, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Vicky Barham & Rose Anne Devlin & Jie Yang, 2006. "Public Policies and Private Decisions: The Effect of Child Support Measures on Marriage and Divorce," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(2), pages 441-474, June.
    8. Hans Fehr & Manuel Kallweit & Fabian Kindermann, 2009. "Marital Risk, Family Insurance, and Public Policy," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 226, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    9. Amanda Gosling & Maria D. C. Garcia-Alonso, 2015. "Endogenous divorce and human capital production," Studies in Economics 1521, School of Economics, University of Kent.
    10. Tie-Ying Liu & Hsu-Ling Chang & Chi-Wei Su, 2017. "Why do People Get Married? An Inframarginal Perspective," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 130(3), pages 1281-1295, February.

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