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Rational Choice and the Price of Marriage


  • Robert Cherry


This paper accepts the thesis that marriage decisions reflect rational behavior based on weighing benefits and costs. It develops a concept of a marriage price that measures the excess services one spouse provides to the other when there are differences in the number of men and women seeking marriage partners. This price includes income, time allocation to household activities, and control over forms of intimacy and beauty styles. In contrast to Grossbard-Shechtman's strict choice model, this model highlights the patriarchal privileges of husbands. It identifies some of the factors which affect marriage price in the United States and assesses the impact of recent U.S. governmental initiatives to increase marriage rates, including the male employment proposals made by William Julius Wilson. The theoretical model developed here shows that proposals that increase the personal value women place on marriage raise the marriage price they must pay, as well as increasing marriage rates.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Cherry, 1998. "Rational Choice and the Price of Marriage," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(1), pages 27-49.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:4:y:1998:i:1:p:27-49 DOI: 10.1080/135457098338545

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nelson, Julie A, 1994. "I, Thou, and Them: Capabilities, Altruism, and Norms in the Economics of Marriage," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 126-131, May.
    2. Grossbard-Shechtman, Shoshana Amyra & Neuman, Shoshana, 1988. "Women's Labor Supply and Marital Choice," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(6), pages 1294-1302, December.
    3. Barbara Bergmann, 1995. "Becker's theory of the family: Preposterous conclusions," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(1), pages 141-150.
    4. Grossbard-Shechtman, Shoshana Amyra, 1984. "A Theory of Allocation of Time in Markets for Labour and Marriage," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(376), pages 863-882, December.
    5. David Good & Maureen Pirog-Good, 1987. "A simultaneous probit model of crime and employment for black and white teenage males," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 16(1), pages 109-127, June.
    6. Folbre, Nancy, 1982. "Exploitation Comes Home: A Critique of the Marxian Theory of Family Labour," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(4), pages 317-329, December.
    7. Muriel Nazzari, 1980. "The Significance of Present-Day Changes In the Institution of Marriage," Review of Radical Political Economics, Union for Radical Political Economics, vol. 12(2), pages 63-75, July.
    8. Elaine McCrate, 1987. "Trade, Merger and Employment: Economic Theory on Marriage," Review of Radical Political Economics, Union for Radical Political Economics, vol. 19(1), pages 73-89, March.
    9. Rebecca Blank, 1995. "Teen pregnancy: government programs are not the cause," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(2), pages 47-58.
    10. Robert G. Wood, 1995. "Marriage Rates and Marriageable Men: A Test of the Wilson Hypothesis," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(1), pages 163-193.
    11. Shelly Lundberg & Robert A. Pollak, 1996. "Bargaining and Distribution in Marriage," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 139-158, Fall.
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    Cited by:

    1. Grossbard-Shechtman, Shoshana, 2003. "A consumer theory with competitive markets for work in marriage," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 609-645.
    2. Shoshana Grossbard-Shechtman, 2001. "The New Home Economics at Colombia and Chicago," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(3), pages 103-130.
    3. repec:spr:izalbr:v:6:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1186_s40172-017-0059-y is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Jennifer Olmsted, 2002. "Assessing the Impact of Religion on Gender Status," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(3), pages 99-111.

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    Rational Choice; Marriage; Patriarchy;


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