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Paternal Uncertainty and the Economics of Mating, Marriage, and Parental Investment in Children

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  • Dirk Bethmann
  • Michael Kvasnicka

Abstract

We develop a theoretical model of mating behavior and parental investment in children under asymmetry in kin recognition between men and women that provides a microfoundation for the institution of marriage. In the model, men and women derive utility from consumption and reproductive success, which is a function of the number and quality of own offspring. Because of paternal uncertainty, men unlike women may err in investing resources in offspring that is not biologically theirs. As a socially sanctioned commitment device among partners, the institution of marriage reduces this risk by restraining promiscuity in society. Both women and men are shown to benefit from lower levels of paternal uncertainty, as does average child quality because of increased parental investments. As an analytical framework, the model is suitable to study a number of societal, economic, and technological changes in their effects on marriage patterns. A combination of factors is argued to underlie the demise of marriage.

Suggested Citation

  • Dirk Bethmann & Michael Kvasnicka, 2005. "Paternal Uncertainty and the Economics of Mating, Marriage, and Parental Investment in Children," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2005-046, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:hum:wpaper:sfb649dp2005-046
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Michael J. Brien, 1997. "Racial Differences in Marriage and the Role of Marriage Markets," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(4), pages 741-778.
    2. I-Fen Lin & Anne Case & Sara McLanahan, 1999. "Household Resource Allocation in Stepfamilies: Darwin Reflects on the Plight of Cinderella," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 234-238, May.
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    5. 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..
    6. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dirk Bethmann, 2011. "Marriage Regimes," FEMM Working Papers 110029, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Faculty of Economics and Management.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    adaptive Mating; Paternal Uncertainty; Parental Investment; Marriage;

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • 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
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact

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