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Uncertain Paternity, Mating Market Failure, and the Institution of Marriage

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  • Dirk Bethmann

    () (Department of Economics, Korea University)

  • Michael Kvasnicka

    (Department of Economics, Humboldt University)

Abstract

This paper provides a first microeconomic foundation for the institution of marriage. Based on a model of reproduction, mating, and parental investment in children, we argue that marriage serves the purpose of attenuating the risk of mating market failure that arises from incomplete information on individual paternity. Raising the costs of mating to individuals, marriage circumscribes female infidelity and mate poaching among men, which reduces average levels of paternal uncertainty in society. A direct gain in male utility, the latter induces men to invest more in their putative offspring, a fact that benefits women because of the public good nature of children. Able to realize Pareto improvements, marriage as an institution is hence explained as the result of a societal consensus on the need to organize and structure mating behavior and reproduction in society for the benefit of paternal certainty and biparental investment in offspring.

Suggested Citation

  • Dirk Bethmann & Michael Kvasnicka, 2007. "Uncertain Paternity, Mating Market Failure, and the Institution of Marriage," Discussion Paper Series 0701, Institute of Economic Research, Korea University.
  • Handle: RePEc:iek:wpaper:0701
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    File URL: http://econ.korea.ac.kr/~ri/WorkingPapers/w0701.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Dirk Bethmann & Michael Kvasnicka, 2013. "World War II, Missing Men and Out of Wedlock Childbearing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 123(567), pages 162-194, March.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Marriage; Mating; Paternal Uncertainty; Parental Investment;

    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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