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Marriage Markets and Divorce Laws


  • Imran Rasul


This paper develops a model of search and learning in marriage markets to analyze how a liberalization of divorce laws affects marriage market outcomes. In particular we analyze how the move from mutual consent divorce to unilateral divorce affects marriage rates, the composition of those who marry, and divorce rates, under the assumption that households cannot reach Coasean bargains. The analysis highlights the distinction between the effects on the existing stock of married couples (a pipeline effect) and the effects on newly married couples (a selection effect). Although unilateral divorce laws increase divorce rates for those already married at the time of the law change, the change to unilateral divorce can cause those married to be better matched than those previously married under mutual consent divorce laws. Hence a change to unilateral divorce can cause a fall in the steady-state divorce rate. The results help interpret and reconcile much of the current empirical literature in this field. Copyright 2006, Oxford University Press.

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  • Imran Rasul, 2006. "Marriage Markets and Divorce Laws," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 30-69, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:22:y:2006:i:1:p:30-69

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    6. Kaplow, Louis, 1990. "A note on the optimal use of nonmonetary sanctions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 245-247, July.
    7. James Andreoni, 1991. "Reasonable Doubt and the Optimal Magnitude of Fines: Should the Penalty Fit the Crime?," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(3), pages 385-395, Autumn.
    8. Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. " The Theory of Optimal Law Enforcement," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 267-295, September.
    9. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1973. "Participation in Illegitimate Activities: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 521-565, May-June.
    10. Polinsky, Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1979. "The Optimal Tradeoff between the Probability and Magnitude of Fines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(5), pages 880-891, December.
    11. Miceli, Thomas J, 1990. "Optimal Prosecution of Defendants Whose Guilt Is Uncertain," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(1), pages 189-201, Spring.
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