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Will You Marry Me? A Perspective on the Gender Gap

  • Volij, Oscar
  • Elul, Ronel
  • Silva-Reus, Jose Angel

This paper develops a general equilibrium model of the gender wage gap. The difference in earnings is a consequence of a demographic regularity--that men tend to marry younger women--which may limit women's labor mobility and, hence, their average earnings. However, couples are always free not to marry, and do so only if it is in each's self-interest. The intrafamily allocation of resources is determined via non-cooperative bargaining; this leads to interesting interactions between the game played by husband and wife on the one hand, and the competitive environment in which they are immersed on the other. The predictions resulting from this model's interplay between locational choice and family bargaining are consistent with the observation that the increasing stress put by women on their careers over the past 30 years has been contemporaneous with reductions in both marriage rates and the gender gap. The model provides insight into the consequences of this for the relative welfare of men and women, as well as exploring its wider economic implications.

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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 10132.

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Date of creation: 01 Jan 2002
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 2002, vol. 49 no. 4, pp. 549-572
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:10132
Contact details of provider: Postal: Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070
Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
Web page: http://www.econ.iastate.edu
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  1. Bergstrom, T. & Bagnoli, M., 1991. "Courtship as a waiting game," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 386, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  2. Oded Galor & David N. Weil, 1993. "The Gender Gap, Fertility, and Growth," NBER Working Papers 4550, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Galor, Oded & Ryder, Harl E., 1989. "Existence, uniqueness, and stability of equilibrium in an overlapping-generations model with productive capital," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 360-375, December.
  4. Echevarria, Cristina & Merlo, Antonio, 1999. "Gender Differences in Education in a Dynamic Household Bargaining Model," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 40(2), pages 265-86, May.
  5. Bergstrom, Theodore C., 1993. "A survey of theories of the family," Handbook of Population and Family Economics, in: M. R. Rosenzweig & Stark, O. (ed.), Handbook of Population and Family Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 21-79 Elsevier.
  6. Maxim Engers & Steven Stern, 2002. "Long-Term Care and Family Bargaining," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 43(1), pages 73-114, February.
  7. Aloysius Siow, 1996. "Differential Fecundity, Markets and Gender Roles," Working Papers siow-96-01, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  8. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Stark, Oded, 1989. "Consumption Smoothing, Migration, and Marriage: Evidence from Rural India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 905-26, August.
  9. Goldin, Claudia, 1986. "Monitoring Costs and Occupational Segregation by Sex: A Historical Analysis," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(1), pages 1-27, January.
  10. Frank, Robert H, 1978. "Family Location Constraints and the Geographic Distribution of Female Professionals," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(1), pages 117-30, February.
  11. 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.
  12. Frank, Robert H, 1978. "Why Women Earn Less: The Theory and Estimation of Differential Overqualification," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(3), pages 360-73, June.
  13. Hadfield, Gillian K., 1999. "A coordination model of the sexual division of labor," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 125-153, October.
  14. Engineer, Merwan & Welling, Linda, 1999. "Human capital, true love, and gender roles: is sex destiny?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 155-178, October.
  15. Keeley, Michael C, 1977. "The Economics of Family Formation," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 15(2), pages 238-50, April.
  16. Patrick Francois, 1996. "A Theory of Gender Discrimination Based on the Household," Working Papers 929, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  17. Mincer, Jacob, 1978. "Family Migration Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(5), pages 749-73, October.
  18. Martin J Osborne & Ariel Rubinstein, 2009. "A Course in Game Theory," Levine's Bibliography 814577000000000225, UCLA Department of Economics.
  19. 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..
  20. Gunderson, Morley, 1989. "Male-Female Wage Differentials and Policy Responses," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(1), pages 46-72, March.
  21. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1982. "A model of employment outcomes illustrating the effect of the structure of information on the level and distribution of income," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 10(3-4), pages 231-236.
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