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Marriage and Consumption Insurance: What's Love Got To Do With It?


  • Gregory D. Hess

    (Claremont McKenna College)


This paper explores the role of marriage when markets are incomplete so that individuals cannot diversify their idiosyncratic labor income risk. Ceteris paribus, an individual would prefer to marry a "hedge" (i.e. a spouse whose income is negatively correlated with her own) as it raises her expected utility. The presence of love, however, complicates the picture. If love is very persistent, for example, and the resolution of uncertainty to agents' income is early, then those who in fact married hedges are the ones most likely to be caught short with too little love in order to save a marriage in the event of an adverse shock. Consequently, under these conditions individuals who are good hedges for one another are more likely to marry one another, although once married, they will be more likely to divorce. In contrast, if love is fleeting and the resolution of uncertainty to agents' income is predominantly later, then those who in fact marry hedges will in fact be less likely to subsequently divorce. Evidence is provided to distinguish which of these alternative scenarios is in support of these aspects of the decision to stay married. Additional hypotheses regarding the effect of differences in the expected means and volatilities of partners' incomes are also derived from the theory and tested.

Suggested Citation

  • Gregory D. Hess, 2002. "Marriage and Consumption Insurance: What's Love Got To Do With It?," Claremont Colleges Working Papers 2002-15, Claremont Colleges.
  • Handle: RePEc:clm:clmeco:2002-15

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gregory D. Hess, 2004. "Marriage and Consumption Insurance: What's Love Got to Do with It?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 290-318, April.
    2. Kiefer, Nicholas M, 1988. "Economic Duration Data and Hazard Functions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(2), pages 646-679, June.
    3. Gregory D. Hess & Kwanho Shin, 1999. "Risk sharing of disaggregate macroeconomic and idiosyncratic shocks," Working Paper 9915, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
    4. Johansen, Soren & Juselius, Katarina, 1990. "Maximum Likelihood Estimation and Inference on Cointegration--With Applications to the Demand for Money," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 52(2), pages 169-210, May.
    5. Hausman, Jerry, 2015. "Specification tests in econometrics," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 38(2), pages 112-134.
    6. Ogaki, Masao & Zhang, Qiang, 2001. "Decreasing Relative Risk Aversion and Tests of Risk Sharing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(2), pages 515-526, March.
    7. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Spivak, Avia, 1981. "The Family as an Incomplete Annuities Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 372-391, April.
    8. Hess, Gregory D. & Shin, Kwanho, 2000. "Risk sharing by households within and across regions and industries," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 533-560, June.
    9. Mace, Barbara J, 1991. "Full Insurance in the Presence of Aggregate Uncertainty," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 928-956, October.
    10. Murphy, Kevin M & Topel, Robert H, 2002. "Estimation and Inference in Two-Step Econometric Models," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(1), pages 88-97, January.
    11. Susan Dynarski & Jonathan Gruber, 1997. "Can Families Smooth Variable Earnings?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(1), pages 229-303.
    12. Backus, David K & Kehoe, Patrick J & Kydland, Finn E, 1992. "International Real Business Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 745-775, August.
    13. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Stark, Oded, 1989. "Consumption Smoothing, Migration, and Marriage: Evidence from Rural India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 905-926, August.
    14. Hess, Gregory D. & Shin, Kwanho, 1998. "Intranational business cycles in the United States," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 289-313, April.
    15. Hayashi, Fumio & Altonji, Joseph & Kotlikoff, Laurence, 1996. "Risk-Sharing between and within Families," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(2), pages 261-294, March.
    16. Cochrane, John H, 1991. "A Simple Test of Consumption Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 957-976, October.
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    More about this item


    Consumption Insurance; Marriage;

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

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