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United but (un)equal: human capital, probability of divorce and the marriage contract

Author

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  • Cremer, Helmuth
  • Pestieau, Pierre
  • Roeder, Kerstin

Abstract

This paper studies how the risk of divorce affects the human capital decisions of a young couple. We consider a setting where complete specialization (one of the spouses uses up all the education resources) is optimal with no divorce risk. Symmetry in education (both spouses receive an equal amount of education) then acts like an insurance device in case of divorce particularly when the institutions do not compensate for differences in earnings. But, at the same time symmetry in education is less e¢ cient than the extreme specialization. This is the basic tradeoff underlying our analysis. We show that the symmetric allocation will become more attractive as the probability of divorce increases, if risk aversion is high and/or labor supply elasticity is low. However, it is only a ?second-best? solution as the insurance protection is achieved at the expense of an e¢ ciency loss. E¢ ciency can be restored through suitably designed marriage contracts because they can provide the appropriate insurance against divorce to a couple who opts for specialization. Finally, we study how the (economic) use of marriage is affected by the possibility of divorce.

Suggested Citation

  • Cremer, Helmuth & Pestieau, Pierre & Roeder, Kerstin, 2012. "United but (un)equal: human capital, probability of divorce and the marriage contract," IDEI Working Papers 755, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  • Handle: RePEc:ide:wpaper:26591
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Libertad González & Berkay Özcan, 2013. "The Risk of Divorce and Household Saving Behavior," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(2), pages 404-434.
    2. Alessandro Cigno, 2007. "A Theoretical Analysis of the Effects of Legislation on Marriage, Fertility, Domestic Division of Labour, and the Education of Children," CESifo Working Paper Series 2143, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. 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.
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    5. Apps,Patricia & Rees,Ray, 2009. "Public Economics and the Household," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521716284, April.
    6. Raquel Fernández & Joyce Cheng Wong, 2011. "The Disappearing Gender Gap: The Impact of Divorce, Wages, and Preferences on Education Choices and Women's Work," NBER Working Papers 17508, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Fernández, Raquel & Wong, Joyce Cheng, 2011. "The Disappearing Gender Gap: The Impact of Divorce, Wages, and Preferences on Education Choices and Women's Work," CEPR Discussion Papers 8627, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    12. Lommerud, Kjell Erik, 1989. "Marital Division of Labor with Risk of Divorce: The Role of "Voice" Enforcement of Contracts," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(1), pages 113-127, January.
    13. Fernández, Raquel & Wong, Joyce Cheng, 2011. "The Disappearing Gender Gap: The Impact of Divorce, Wages, and Preferences on Education Choices and Women's Work," IZA Discussion Papers 6046, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. Borenstein, Severin & Cournat, Paul N, 1989. "How to Carve a Medical Degree: Human Capital Assets in Divorce Settlements," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 992-1009, December.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    post-marital education; marriage contract; divorce;

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • K36 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Family and Personal Law

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