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Can Pro-Marriage Policies Work? An Analysis of Marginal Marriages

  • Wolfgang Frimmel
  • Martin Halla
  • Rudolf Winter-Ebmer

Policies to promote marriage are controversial, and it is unclear whether they are successful. To analyze such policies, it is essential to distinguish between a marriage that is created by a marriage-promoting policy (marginal marriage) and a marriage that would have been formed even in the absence of a state interven- tion (average marriage). In this paper, we exploit the suspension of a cash-on-hand marriage subsidy in Austria to examine the differential behavior of marginal and average marriages. The announcement of this suspension led to an enormous marriage boom (plus 350 percent) among eligible couples that allows us to identify marginal marriages. Applying a difference-in-differences approach, we show that marginal marriages are surprisingly as stable as average marriages, but have fewer children and have them later in marriage. Notably, the children born to marginal marriages are similar in terms of health at birth.

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Paper provided by The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria in its series NRN working papers with number 2012-07.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:jku:nrnwps:2012_07
Contact details of provider: Postal: NRN Labor Economics and the Welfare State, c/o Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, Altenbergerstr. 69, 4040 Linz
Phone: +43-732-2468-8216
Fax: +43-732-2468-8217
Web page: http://www.labornrn.at/Email:


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  1. Wolfgang Frimmel & Martin Halla & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2009. "Assortative Mating and Divorce: Evidence from Austrian Register Data," NRN working papers 2009-18, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  2. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Marriage: Part II," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(2), pages S11-S26, Part II, .
  3. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie, 2011. "Killing Me Softly: The Fetal Origins Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 153-72, Summer.
  4. Keith Finlay & David Neumark, 2010. "Is Marriage Always Good for Children?: Evidence from Families Affected by Incarceration," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(4), pages 1046-1088.
  5. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2005. "From the Cradle to the Labor Market? The Effect of Birth Weight on Adult Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 11796, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. 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..
  8. Wolfgang Frimmel & Gerald J. Pruckner, 2011. "Birth weight and family status revisited: evidence from Austrian register data," NRN working papers 2011-18, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  9. Joshua D. Angrist & Guido W. Imbens, 1995. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," NBER Technical Working Papers 0118, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. A. S. Yelowitz, . "Will Extending Medicaid to Two-Parent Families Encourage Marriage?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1118-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  11. Ichino, Andrea & Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf, 1998. "Lower and Upper Bounds of Returns to Schooling: An Exercise in IV estimation with Different Instruments," CEPR Discussion Papers 2007, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Plamen Nikolov & Karen Gardiner & Mike Fishman, 2003. "State Policies to promote marriage," HEW 0306003, EconWPA.
  13. Paul R. Amato, 2007. "Strengthening marriage is an appropriate social policy goal," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(4), pages 952-955.
  14. Michael Baker & Emily Hanna & Jasmin Kantarevic, 2004. "The Married Widow: Marriage Penalties Matter!," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(4), pages 634-664, 06.
  15. Frank F. Furstenberg, 2007. "Response to Amato," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(4), pages 963-964.
  16. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2007. "Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces," CEPR Discussion Papers 6144, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  17. Rebecca M. Blank, 2002. "Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States," NBER Working Papers 8983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Gordon B. Dahl, 2005. "Early Teen Marriage and Future Poverty," NBER Working Papers 11328, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Frank F. Furstenberg, 2007. "Should government promote marriage?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(4), pages 956-960.
  20. Robert G. Wood & Sheena McConnell & Quinn Moore & Andrew Clarkwest & JoAnn Hsueh, 2012. "The Effects of Building Strong Families: A Healthy Marriage and Relationship Skills Education Program for Unmarried Parents," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 31(2), pages 228-252, 03.
  21. repec:mpr:mprres:7321 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. Josef Zweimüller & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer & Rafael Lalive & Andreas Kuhn & Jean-Philippe Wuellrich & Oliver Ruf & Simon Büchi, 2009. "Austrian Social Security Database," NRN working papers 2009-03, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    • Josef Zweimüller & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer & Rafael Lalive & Andreas Kuhn & Jean-Philippe Wuellrich & Oliver Ruf & Simon Büchi, 2009. "Austrian social security database," IEW - Working Papers 410, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  23. Ai, Chunrong & Norton, Edward C., 2003. "Interaction terms in logit and probit models," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 123-129, July.
  24. Nicholas J. Sanders & Charles F. Stoecker, 2011. "Where Have All the Young Men Gone? Using Gender Ratios to Measure Fetal Death Rates," NBER Working Papers 17434, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. James Alm & Stacy Dickert-Conlin & Leslie A. Whittington, 1999. "Policy Watch: The Marriage Penalty," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 193-204, Summer.
  26. Karen Struening, 2007. "Do government sponsored marriage promotion policies place undue pressure on individual rights?," Policy Sciences, Springer, vol. 40(3), pages 241-259, September.
  27. Sara McLanahan, 2007. "Should government promote marriage?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(4), pages 951-951.
  28. Paul R. Amato, 2007. "Response to Furstenberg," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(4), pages 961-962.
  29. Niko Matouschek & Imran Rasul, 2008. "The Economics of the Marriage Contract: Theories and Evidence," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(1), pages 59-110, 02.
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