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Are There Increasing Returns to Scale in Marriage Markets?

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  • Maristella Botticini
  • Aloysius Siow

Abstract

The goal of an individual searching for a marriage partner is typically to form a long-term relationship. Marital search is a complicated and costly activity, where opportunities typically arrive over time at uncertain intervals, each party has to evaluate each other's characteristics, and expectations play an important role. Given these features of marital search, a seminal paper by Mortensen (1988) has shown that the matching framework can be suited for the analysis of marriage markets and also raised the possibility of a thick market externality in these markets. We contribute to this literature by empirically investigating whether marriage markets are characterized by increasing, constant, or decreasing returns to scale. We focus on three societies—late medieval and early Renaissance Tuscany, China in the 1980s, and the United States in 2000—which are different in terms of population size, economic structure, sex ratios, marriage transfers, and the social norms governing marriage markets. Our main finding is that in all three societies, there is no evidence of increasing returns to scale in marriage markets, whereas the hypothesis of constant returns to scale cannot be rejected. The remarkably similar and precise estimates suggest that the number of eligibles (and potential contacts) in a marriage market is less important than economic factors, such as wealth levels and income dispersion, in affecting the marriage rate across different societies. The key message is that where individuals live, in large cities or small towns, have a minimal effect on their marriage rates.

Suggested Citation

  • Maristella Botticini & Aloysius Siow, 2011. "Are There Increasing Returns to Scale in Marriage Markets?," Working Papers 395, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  • Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:395
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert Shimer & Lones Smith, 2000. "Assortative Matching and Search," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(2), pages 343-370, March.
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    3. Maristella Botticini & Aloysius Siow, 2003. "Why Dowries?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1385-1398, September.
    4. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2007. "Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 27-52, Spring.
    5. Gould, Eric D. & Paserman, M. Daniele, 2003. "Waiting for Mr. Right: rising inequality and declining marriage rates," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 257-281, March.
    6. Oster, Emily & Chen, Gang & Yu, Xinsen & Lin, Wenyao, 2010. "Hepatitis B does not explain male-biased sex ratios in China," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 142-144, May.
    7. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2002. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 730-770, August.
    8. Nancy Qian, 2008. "Missing Women and the Price of Tea in China: The Effect of Sex-Specific Earnings on Sex Imbalance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(3), pages 1251-1285.
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    10. Lones Smith, 2006. "The Marriage Model with Search Frictions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(6), pages 1124-1146, December.
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    16. Eugene Choo & Aloysius Siow, 2006. "Who Marries Whom and Why," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(1), pages 175-201, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Leonardo Felli & Leeat Yariv & Allan Collard-Wexler & Mariagiovanna Baccara, 2010. "Gender and Racial Biases: Evidence from Child Adoption," 2010 Meeting Papers 273, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Aloysius Siow, 2015. "Testing Becker's Theory of Positive Assortative Matching," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 409-441.
    3. Tom Vogl, 2012. "Marriage Institutions and Sibling Competition: Evidence from South Asia," NBER Working Papers 18319, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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