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Unmarried Parenthood and Redistributive Politics


  • Edlund, Lena Cecilia
  • Haider, Laila
  • Pande, Rohini


Political survey data for nine West European countries show that women have become increasingly left-wing compared to men, and that this trend is positively correlated with the decline in marriage in these countries. This pattern is mirrored in German longitudinal data (GSOEP), where transitions out of marriage make women, but not men, significantly more left-leaning. Analysis of public spending data for high-income OECD countries (1980-98) suggests that the political impact of non-marriage extends to the allocation of State resources. We find that the relationship between the decline in marriage and public spending on children is U-shaped, that is, declines in marriage first reduce and then increase such spending. This finding both supports the hypothesis that the decline in marriage lies behind the political gender gap and highlights the salience of popular support, rather than need, in determining public spending.

Suggested Citation

  • Edlund, Lena Cecilia & Haider, Laila & Pande, Rohini, 2004. "Unmarried Parenthood and Redistributive Politics," CEPR Discussion Papers 4478, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4478

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    1. Irma Clots-Figueras, 2012. "Are Female Leaders Good for Education? Evidence from India," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 212-244, January.
    2. Bertrand, Marianne, 2011. "New Perspectives on Gender," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    3. Astghik Mavisakalyan, 2014. "Women in cabinet and public health spending: evidence across countries," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 281-304, August.
    4. Sonia Bhalotra & Irma Clots-Figueras, 2014. "Health and the Political Agency of Women," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(2), pages 164-197, May.
    5. Elaina Rose & Ho-Po Crystal Wong, 2014. "But Who Will Get Billy? The Effect of Child Custody Laws on Marriage," Working Papers 14-30, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.
    6. Gaeta, Giuseppe Lucio, 2011. "In the mood for redistribution. An empirical analysis of individual preferences for redistribution in Italy," MPRA Paper 32049, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. García-Peñalosa, Cecilia & Konte, Maty, 2014. "Why Are Women Less Democratic Than Men? Evidence from Sub-Saharan African Countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 104-119.
    8. repec:esx:essedp:739 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Jaelani, Aan, 2011. "Islam, Gender Dan Fundamentalisme-Radikal Dalam Politik Ekonomi Global
      [Islam, Gender And Fundamentalism-Radicals In A Global Political Economy]
      ," MPRA Paper 69527, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Dec 2015.
    10. Martin Halla & Mario Lackner & Johann Scharler, 2016. "Does the Welfare State Destroy the Family? Evidence from OECD Member Countries," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 118(2), pages 292-323, April.
    11. Rebecca Morton & Jean-Robert Tyran & Erik Wengström, 2016. "Personality Traits and the Gender Gap in Ideology," Discussion Papers 16-08, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    12. Pande, Rohini, 2008. "Understanding Political Corruption in Low Income Countries," Handbook of Development Economics, Elsevier.
    13. Paolo Casini & Lore Vandewalle & Zaki Wahhaj, 2017. "Public Good Provision in Indian Rural Areas: The Returns to Collective Action by Microfinance Groups," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 31(1), pages 97-128.
    14. Rose, Elaina & Wong, Crystal (Ho Po), 2014. "But Who Will Get Billy? The Effect of Child Custody Laws on Marriage," IZA Discussion Papers 8611, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    15. Clots-Figueras, Irma, 2011. "Women in politics," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 664-690.
    16. Kotsadam, Andreas & Nerman, Måns, 2012. "The Effects of Gender Quotas in Latin American National Elections," Working Papers in Economics 528, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    17. Schild, Christopher-Johannes, 2013. "Do female mayors make a difference? Evidence from Bavaria," FAU Discussion Papers in Economics 07/2013, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Institute for Economics.
    18. Nafisa Halim & Kathryn M. Yount & Solveig A. Cunningham & Rohini P. Pande, 2016. "Women’s Political Empowerment and Investments in Primary Schooling in India," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 125(3), pages 813-851, February.
    19. Matthias Doepke & Michèle Tertilt & Alessandra Voena, 2012. "The Economics and Politics of Women's Rights," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 4(1), pages 339-372, July.
    20. Patricia Funk & Christina Gathmann, 2015. "Gender gaps in policy making: evidence from direct democracy in Switzerland," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 30(81), pages 141-181.

    More about this item


    divorce; marriage age; out-of-wedlock fertility; political gender gap; public social spending;

    JEL classification:

    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • H42 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Publicly Provided Private Goods
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth


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