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Genes, Legitimacy and Hypergamy: Another Look at the Economics of Marriage

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  • Saint-Paul, Gilles

Abstract

In order to credibly "sell" legitimate children to their spouse, women must forego more attractive mating opportunities. This paper derives the implications of this observation for the pattern of matching in marriage markets, the dynamics of human capital accumulation, and the evolution of the gene pool. A key consequence of the trade-off faced by women is that marriage markets will naturally tend to be hypergamous - that is, a marriage is more likely to be beneficial to both parties relative to remaining single, the greater the man’s human capital, and the lower the woman’s human capital. As a consequence, it is shown that the equilibrium can only be of two types. In the "Victorian" type, all agents marry somebody of the same rank in the distribution of income. In the "Sex and the City" (SATC) type, women marry men who are better ranked than themselves. There is a mass of unmarried men at the bottom of the distribution of human capital, and a mass of single women at the top of that distribution. It is shown that the economy switches from a Victorian to an SATC equilibrium as inequality goes up. The model sheds light on how marriage affects the returns to human capital for men and women. Absent marriage, these returns are larger for women than for men but the opposite may occur if marriage prevails. Finally, it is shown that the institution of marriage may or may not favour human capital accumulation depending on how genes affect one’s productivity at accumulating human capital.
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Suggested Citation

  • Saint-Paul, Gilles, 2008. "Genes, Legitimacy and Hypergamy: Another Look at the Economics of Marriage," IDEI Working Papers 509, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  • Handle: RePEc:ide:wpaper:9118
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Michael Kremer, 1993. "The O-Ring Theory of Economic Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 551-575.
    2. Ken Burdett & Melvyn G. Coles, 1997. "Marriage and Class," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 141-168.
    3. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 1993. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 35-52.
    4. 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..
    5. Lena Edlund, 2005. "Sex and the City," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 107(1), pages 25-44, March.
    6. Lena Edlund & Evelyn Korn, 2002. "A Theory of Prostitution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 181-214, February.
    7. Lena Edlund, 2006. "Marriage: Past, Present, Future?," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 52(4), pages 621-639, December.
    8. Raquel Fernandez & John Knowles & Nezih Guner, 2001. "Love and Money: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of Household Sorting and Inequality," LIS Working papers 283, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Victoria, Sex and the City and why women get married
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2008-10-22 15:34:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Belot, Michèle & Fidrmuc, Jan, 2010. "Anthropometry of love: Height and gender asymmetries in interethnic marriages," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 361-372, December.
    2. Francesconi, Marco & Ghiglino, Christian & Perry, Motty, 2009. "On the Origin of the Family," IZA Discussion Papers 4637, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Francesconi, Marco & Ghiglino, Christian & Perry, Motty, 2009. "On the Origin of the Family," IZA Discussion Papers 4637, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Brishti Guha, 2012. "Gambling on Genes: Ambiguity Aversion Explains Investment in Sisters’ Children," Working Papers 33-2012, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
    5. Guha, Brishti, 2016. "Grandparents as Guards: A Game-Theoretic Analysis of Inheritance and Post-Marital Residence in a world of Uncertain Paternity," MPRA Paper 70954, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Lena Edlund, 2013. "The Role of Paternity Presumption and Custodial Rights for Understanding Marriage Patterns," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 80(320), pages 650-669, October.
    7. repec:eee:wdevel:v:100:y:2017:i:c:p:69-84 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Fujii, Tomoki, 2017. "Dynamic Poverty Decomposition Analysis: An Application to the Philippines," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 69-84.
    9. Brishti Guha, 2012. "Grandparents as Guards: A Game Theoretic Analysis of Inheritance and Post Marital Residence in a World of Uncertain Paternity," Working Papers 37-2012, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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