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

  • Dirk Bethmann
  • Michael Kvasnicka

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.

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File URL: http://sfb649.wiwi.hu-berlin.de/papers/pdf/SFB649DP2005-046.pdf
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Paper provided by Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany in its series SFB 649 Discussion Papers with number SFB649DP2005-046.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hum:wpaper:sfb649dp2005-046
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  1. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "A Theory of Marriage: Part II," NBER Chapters, in: Marriage, Family, Human Capital, and Fertility, pages 11-26 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn & Jane Waldfogel, 2000. "Understanding young women's marriage decisions: The role of labor and marriage market conditions," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 53(4), pages 624-647, July.
  3. Becker, Gary S, 1973. "A Theory of Marriage: Part I," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 813-46, July-Aug..
  4. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Is Making Divorce Easier Bad for Children? The Long Run Implications of Unilateral Divorce," NBER Working Papers 7968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Robert J. Willis, 1999. "A Theory of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages S33-S64, December.
  7. 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.
  8. Ted Bergstrom, 1995. "A Survey of Theories of the Family," Papers _027, University of Michigan, Department of Economics.
  9. Pierre Lefebvre & Philip Merrigan, 1998. "The Impact of Welfare Benefits on the Conjugal Status of Single Mothers in Canada: Estimates from a Hazard Model," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(3), pages 742-757.
  10. Mark R. Rosenzweig, 1999. "Welfare, Marital Prospects, and Nonmarital Childbearing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages S3-S32, December.
  11. 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.
  12. Jonathan Gruber, 2004. "Is Making Divorce Easier Bad for Children? The Long-Run Implications of Unilateral Divorce," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(4), pages 799-834, October.
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