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Are Career Women Good for Marriage?


  • Zvika Neeman

    () (Department of Economics, Boston University)

  • Andrew F. Newman

    () (Department of Economics, Boston University)

  • Claudia Olivetti

    () (Department of Economics, Boston University)


We study US divorce rates, which despite the continuing rise in female labor force participation (FLFP), have been falling since the mid-1980s, reversing a two-decade trend. A cross section of U.S. states for the year 2000 displays a negative relationship between the divorce rate and FLFP. We present theory and evidence in support of the view that these recent trends are the product of two distinct economic forces: relative to their non-career counterparts, career women display greater selectivity in the search for marriage partners and greater flexibility in sharing the benefits of a marriage with their partners. Greater selectivity implies that career women will be older when they first marry and that their marriages will be of higher average “quality,†possibly making them less prone to breakup. Greater flexibility implies that it is easier for two-earner families to re-adjust the intrahousehold allocation to compensate for changes in outside opportunities, making marriages more resistant to “shocks.†Our evidence shows that both effects may be playing a role in generating the trends the trends.

Suggested Citation

  • Zvika Neeman & Andrew F. Newman & Claudia Olivetti, 2008. "Are Career Women Good for Marriage?," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-167, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bos:iedwpr:dp-167

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner, 2009. "Marriage and Divorce since World War II: Analyzing the Role of Technological Progress on the Formation of Households," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2008, Volume 23, pages 231-276 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Spiros Bougheas & Yannis Georgellis, 1999. "The effect of divorce costs on marriage formation and dissolution," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 12(3), pages 489-498.
    4. Terra G. Mckinnish, 2004. "Occupation, Sex-Integration, and Divorce," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 322-325, May.
    5. Mincer, Jacob, 1985. "Intercountry Comparisons of Labor Force Trends and of Related Developments: An Overview," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-32, January.
    6. Patrick Legros & Andrew F. Newman, 2007. "Beauty Is a Beast, Frog Is a Prince: Assortative Matching with Nontransferabilities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(4), pages 1073-1102, July.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. Gould, Eric D. & Paserman, M. Daniele, 2003. "Waiting for Mr. Right: rising inequality and declining marriage rates," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 257-281, March.
    10. Zvika Neeman & Andrew F. Newman & Claudia Olivetti, 2006. "Are Working Women Good for Marriage?," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2006-039, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    11. Parkman, Allen M, 1992. "Unilateral Divorce and the Labor-Force Participation Rate of Married Women, Revisited," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 671-678, June.
    12. Becker, Gary S & Landes, Elisabeth M & Michael, Robert T, 1977. "An Economic Analysis of Marital Instability," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(6), pages 1141-1187, December.
    13. Yeon-Koo Che & Ian Gale, 1998. "Standard Auctions with Financially Constrained Bidders," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(1), pages 1-21.
    14. Gray, Jeffrey S, 1998. "Divorce-Law Changes, Household Bargaining, and Married Women's Labor Supply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 628-642, June.
    15. Johnson, William R & Skinner, Jonathan, 1986. "Labor Supply and Marital Separation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 455-469, June.
    16. Michael, Robert T, 1985. "Consequences of the Rise in Female Labor Force Participation Rates: Questions and Probes," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 117-146, January.
    17. Imran Rasul, 2006. "Marriage Markets and Divorce Laws," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 30-69, April.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Comportamento econômico das mulheres
      by Roberto Ushisima in Empresas e Mercados on 2009-09-08 23:06:00


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    Cited by:

    1. Bertocchi, Graziella & Brunetti, Marianna & Torricelli, Costanza, 2011. "Marriage and other risky assets: A portfolio approach," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 35(11), pages 2902-2915, November.
    2. Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner & Georgi Kocharkov & Cezar Santos, 2016. "Technology and the Changing Family: A Unified Model of Marriage, Divorce, Educational Attainment, and Married Female Labor-Force Participation," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 1-41, January.

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