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Efficiency in Marriage

  • Shelly Lundberg
  • Robert A. Pollak

Economists usually assume that bargaining in marriage leads to efficient outcomes. The most convincing rationale for this assumption is the belief that efficient allocations are likely to emerge from repeated interactions in stationary environments, and that marriage provides such an environment. This paper argues that when a current decision affects future bargaining power, inefficient outcomes are plausible. If the spouses could make binding commitments -- in effect, commitments to refrain from exploiting the future bargaining advantage -- then the inefficiency would disappear. But spouses seldom can make binding commitments regarding allocation within marriage. To investigate the efficiency of bargaining within marriage when choices affect future bargaining power, we consider the location decisions of two-earner couples. These location decisions are transparent and analytically tractable examples of choices likely to affect future bargaining power, but the logic of our analysis applies to many other decisions. For example, decisions about education, fertility, and labor force participation are also potential sources of inefficiency.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8642.

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Date of creation: Dec 2001
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Publication status: published as Shelly Lundberg & Robert Pollak, 2003. "Efficiency in Marriage," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 1(3), pages 153-167, September.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8642
Note: LS
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  1. Lundberg, Shelly & Pollak, Robert A, 1993. "Separate Spheres Bargaining and the Marriage Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(6), pages 988-1010, December.
  2. Shelly Lundberg & Robert A. Pollak, 1996. "Bargaining and Distribution in Marriage," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 139-158, Fall.
  3. Saku Aura, 2003. "Uncommitted Couples: Some Efficiency and Policy Implications of Marital Bargaining," Microeconomics 0304002, EconWPA.
  4. Robert Pollak, 2003. "Gary Becker's Contributions to Family and Household Economics," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 111-141, January.
  5. Kai A. Konrad & Kjell Erik Lommerud, 2000. "The bargaining family revisited," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 33(2), pages 471-487, May.
  6. Kaushik Basu, 2004. "Gender and Say A Model of Household Behavior with Endogenously-determined Balance of Power," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2054, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  7. Peters, H Elizabeth, 1986. "Marriage and Divorce: Informational Constraints and Private Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 437-54, June.
  8. Ligon, Ethan, 2002. "Dynamic bargaining in households (with an application to Bangladesh)," CUDARE Working Paper Series 972, University of California at Berkeley, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Policy.
  9. Rubinstein, Ariel, 1982. "Perfect Equilibrium in a Bargaining Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 97-109, January.
  10. Shelly Lundberg & Richard Startz & Steven Stillman, 2001. "The Retirement-Consumption Puzzle: A Marital Bargaining Approach," Working Papers 01-04, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  11. Mincer, Jacob, 1978. "Family Migration Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(5), pages 749-73, October.
  12. Chiappori, Pierre-Andre, 1988. "Rational Household Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(1), pages 63-90, January.
  13. Junsen Zhang & William Chan, 1999. "Dowry and Wife's Welfare: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(4), pages 786-808, August.
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