IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/ucp/jlawec/v51y2008i1p59-110.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Economics of the Marriage Contract: Theories and Evidence

Author

Listed:
  • Niko Matouschek
  • Imran Rasul

Abstract

We analyze the role of the marriage contract. We first formalize three prominent hypotheses on why people marry: marriage provides an exogenous payoff to married partners, it serves as a commitment device, and it serves as a signaling device. For each theory we analyze how a reduction in the costs of divorce affects the propensity to divorce for couples at any given duration of marriage. We then use individual marriage and divorce certificate data from the United States to bring these alternative views of the marriage contract to bear on the data. We exploit variations in the timing of the adoption of unilateral divorce laws across states to proxy a one-off and permanent reduction in divorce costs. The results suggest that the dominant reason that couples enter into a marriage contract is that it serves as a commitment device. (c) 2008 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A..

Suggested Citation

  • Niko Matouschek & Imran Rasul, 2008. "The Economics of the Marriage Contract: Theories and Evidence," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(1), pages 59-110, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:51:y:2008:i:1:p:59-110
    DOI: 10.1086/588596
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/588596
    File Function: link to full text
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Michael J. Brien & Lee A. Lillard & Steven Stern, 2006. "Cohabitation, Marriage, And Divorce In A Model Of Match Quality," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 47(2), pages 451-494, May.
    2. Peters, H Elizabeth, 1986. "Marriage and Divorce: Informational Constraints and Private Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 437-454, June.
    3. William Mosher & Linda Williams & David Johnson, 1992. "Religion and fertility in the United States: New patterns," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 29(2), pages 199-214, May.
    4. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2002. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 730-770, August.
    5. Freiden, Alan, 1974. "The United States Marriage Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(2), pages 34-53, Part II, .
    6. Lundberg, Shelly & Pollak, Robert A, 1993. "Separate Spheres Bargaining and the Marriage Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(6), pages 988-1010, December.
    7. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2006. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(1), pages 267-288.
    8. Alan Freiden, 1974. "The United States Marriage Market," NBER Chapters, in: Marriage, Family, Human Capital, and Fertility, pages 34-56, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Becker, Gary S, 1973. "A Theory of Marriage: Part I," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 813-846, July-Aug..
    10. Zelder, Martin, 1993. "Inefficient Dissolutions as a Consequence of Public Goods: The Case of No-Fault Divorce," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 503-520, June.
    11. Stéphane Mechoulan, 2006. "Divorce Laws and the Structure of the American Family," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(1), pages 143-174, January.
    12. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. 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.
    14. Pierre-Andre Chiappori & Bernard Fortin & Guy Lacroix, 2002. "Marriage Market, Divorce Legislation, and Household Labor Supply," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 37-72, February.
    15. Robert Michael & Nancy Tuma, 1985. "Entry into marriage and parenthood by young men and women: The influence of family background," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 22(4), pages 515-544, November.
    16. Brinig, Margaret F & Crafton, Steven M, 1994. "Marriage and Opportunism," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 869-894, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Cáceres-Delpiano, Julio & Giolito, Eugenio, 2008. "How Unilateral Divorce Affects Children," IZA Discussion Papers 3342, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Smith, Ian, 2007. "Property division on divorce with inequity aversion," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 111-128.
    3. Julio Cáceres-Delpiano & Eugenio Giolito, 2012. "The Impact of Unilateral Divorce on Crime," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(1), pages 215-248.
    4. John Douglas Skåtun, 2017. "Bargaining on your Spouse: Coasean and Non-Coasean Behaviour Within Marriage," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 38(2), pages 263-278, June.
    5. Bargain, Olivier & González, Libertad & Keane, Claire & Özcan, Berkay, 2012. "Female labor supply and divorce: New evidence from Ireland," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(8), pages 1675-1691.
    6. Akiko Maruyama & Takashi Shimizu & Kazuhiro Yamamoto, 2009. "Exit and Voice in a Marriage Market," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 09-04, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics.
    7. Valerio Filoso, 2009. "Divorce And The Option Value Of Marital Search," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(1), pages 119-149, February.
    8. Lehrer, Evelyn L. & Son, Yeon Jeong, 2017. "Marital Instability in the United States: Trends, Driving Forces, and Implications for Children," IZA Discussion Papers 10503, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    9. Li, Li & Mak, Eric, 2016. "Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage: The Catalyst Effect of Unilateral Divorce," MPRA Paper 83330, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Marcassa Stefania, 2013. "Divorce laws and divorce rate in the US," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 13(1), pages 1-39, August.
    11. Mumcu, Ayse & Saglam, Ismail, 2006. "Marriage and Divorce in a Model of Matching," MPRA Paper 1907, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Martin Halla & Johann Scharler, 2012. "Marriage, Divorce, and Interstate Risk Sharing," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(1), pages 55-78, March.
    13. Levin, Mark (Левин, Марк) & Matrosova, Ksenia (Матросова, Ксения), 2018. "Development and Research of Economic Behavior of Households in Changing Conditions [Разработка И Исследование Экономического Поведения Домохозяйств В Изменяющихся Условиях]," Working Papers 041825, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.
    14. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2007. "Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 27-52, Spring.
    15. Shelly Lundberg & Aloysius Siow, 2017. "Canadian contributions to family economics," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 50(5), pages 1304-1323, December.
    16. Thorsten Kneip & Gerrit Bauer & Steffen Reinhold, 2014. "Direct and Indirect Effects of Unilateral Divorce Law on Marital Stability," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(6), pages 2103-2126, December.
    17. Bellido, Héctor & Marcén, Miriam, 2014. "Divorce laws and fertility," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(C), pages 56-70.
    18. Pablo Brassiolo, 2016. "Domestic Violence and Divorce Law: When Divorce Threats Become Credible," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(2), pages 443-477.
    19. Shen, Danqing, 2018. "Marriage, Divorce and Sorting: A Reassessment of Unilateral Divorce Laws," MPRA Paper 92848, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. Klaus Deininger & Songqing Jin & Hari K. Nagarajan & Fang Xia, 2019. "Inheritance Law Reform, Empowerment, and Human Capital Accumulation: Second-Generation Effects from India," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 55(12), pages 2549-2571, December.

    More about this item

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:51:y:2008:i:1:p:59-110. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Journals Division). General contact details of provider: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.