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Marriage and Trust: Some Lessons from Economics

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  • Rowthorn, Robert

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Rowthorn, Robert, 1999. "Marriage and Trust: Some Lessons from Economics," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(5), pages 661-691, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:cambje:v:23:y:1999:i:5:p:661-91
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    Cited by:

    1. Justin Wolfers, 2006. "Did Unilateral Divorce Laws Raise Divorce Rates? A Reconciliation and New Results," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1802-1820, December.
    2. Ian Smith, 2003. "The Law and Economics of Marriage Contracts," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(2), pages 201-226, April.
    3. Viitanen, Tarja K., 2014. "The divorce revolution and generalized trust: Evidence from the United States 1973–2010," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 25-32.
    4. Viitanen, Tarja, 2011. "Parental Divorce and Generalized Trust," IZA Discussion Papers 5898, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Homero Cuevas, 2000. "La teoría económica, el afecto y la familia," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 2(2), pages 13-36, January-J.
    6. Matthias Fahn & Ray Rees & Amelie Wuppermann, 2016. "Relational contracts for household formation, fertility choice and separation," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 29(2), pages 421-455, April.
    7. 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;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 21(1), pages 1-21, March.
    8. Smith, Ian, 2007. "Property division on divorce with inequity aversion," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 111-128.
    9. Fahn, Matthias & Rees, Ray, 2014. "Household Relational Contracts for Marriage, Fertility and Divorce," Discussion Papers in Economics 20834, University of Munich, Department of Economics.

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