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

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  • Saint-Paul, Gilles

    (Paris School of Economics)

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Saint-Paul, Gilles, 2009. "Genes, Legitimacy and Hypergamy: Another Look at the Economics of Marriage," IZA Discussion Papers 4456, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4456
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Raquel Fernández & Nezih Guner & John Knowles, 2005. "Love and Money: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of Household Sorting and Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 120(1), pages 273-344.
    2. Michael Kremer, 1993. "The O-Ring Theory of Economic Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 108(3), pages 551-575.
    3. Eric D. Gould & Omer Moav & Avi Simhon, 2008. "The Mystery of Monogamy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 333-357, March.
    4. Ken Burdett & Melvyn G. Coles, 1997. "Marriage and Class," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 112(1), pages 141-168.
    5. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 1993. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," The Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economic Studies Ltd, vol. 60(1), pages 35-52.
    6. Gilles Saint-Paul, 2001. "On the Distribution of Income and Worker Assignment under Intrafirm Spillovers, with an Application to Ideas and Networks," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(1), pages 1-37, February.
    7. Lena Edlund, 2005. "Sex and the City," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 107(1), pages 25-44, March.
    8. Lena Edlund, 2006. "Marriage: Past, Present, Future?," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo Group, vol. 52(4), pages 621-639, December.
    9. S. Rao Aiyagari & Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner, 2000. "On the State of the Union," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 213-244, April.
    10. 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..
    11. Lena Edlund & Evelyn Korn, 2002. "A Theory of Prostitution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 181-214, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    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

    RePEc Biblio mentions

    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Demographic Economics > The Economics of Polygamy

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Min-Su Chung & Keunjae Lee, 2022. "Hypergamy Among South Korean Women and Its Implications for the Marriage Rate," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 41(3), pages 929-951, June.
    2. 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.
    3. David De La Croix & Fabio Mariani, 2015. "From Polygyny to Serial Monogamy: A Unified Theory of Marriage Institutions," The Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economic Studies Ltd, vol. 82(2), pages 565-607.
    4. Francesconi, Marco & Ghiglino, Christian & Perry, Motty, 2009. "On the Origin of the Family," IZA Discussion Papers 4637, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Dirk Bethmann, 2011. "Marriage Regimes," FEMM Working Papers 110029, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Faculty of Economics and Management.
    6. Francesconi, Marco & Ghiglino, Christian & Perry, Motty, 2009. "On the Origin of the Family," IZA Discussion Papers 4637, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Brishti Guha, 2012. "Gambling on Genes: Ambiguity Aversion Explains Investment in Sisters’ Children," Working Papers 33-2012, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
    8. 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.
    9. Dirk Bethmann & Michael Kvasnicka, 2011. "The institution of marriage," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 24(3), pages 1005-1032, July.
    10. 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.
    11. Jacques Silber & Sasiwimon Warunsiri Paweenawat & Lusi Liao, 2022. "On the measurement of non-random mating and of its change over time," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 161-198, March.
    12. Fujii, Tomoki, 2017. "Dynamic Poverty Decomposition Analysis: An Application to the Philippines," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 69-84.
    13. Francesconi, Marco & Ghiglino, Christian & Perry, Motty, 2016. "An evolutionary theory of monogamy," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 605-628.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    marriage markets; human capital accumulation; hypergamy; overlapping generations; legitimacy;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • 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
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • K36 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Family and Personal Law
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

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