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United but (un)equal: human capital, probability of divorce and the marriage contract

  • Cremer, Helmuth
  • Pestieau, Pierre
  • Roeder, Kerstin

This paper studies how the risk of divorce a¤ects the human capital decisions of a young couple. We consider a setting where complete specialization (one of the spouses uses up all the education resources) is optimal with no divorce risk. Symmetry in education (both spouses receive an equal amount of education) then acts like an insurance device in case of divorce particularly when the institutions do not compensate for di¤erences in earnings. But, at the same time symmetry in education is less e¢ cient than the extreme specialization. This is the basic tradeo¤ underlying our analysis. We show that the symmetric allocation will become more attractive as the probability of divorce increases, if risk aversion is high and/or labor supply elasticity is low. However, it is only a ?second-best? solution as the insurance protection is achieved at the expense of an e¢ ciency loss. E¢ ciency can be restored through suitably designed marriage contracts because they can provide the appropriate insurance against divorce to a couple who opts for specialization. Finally, we study how the (economic) use of marriage is a¤ected by the possibility of divorce.

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Paper provided by Toulouse School of Economics (TSE) in its series TSE Working Papers with number 12-363.

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Date of creation: Nov 2012
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Publication status: Published in Journal of Population Economics, vol.�28, n°1, janvier 2015, p.�195-217.
Handle: RePEc:tse:wpaper:26593
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Web page: http://www.tse-fr.eu/
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  1. Fernández, Raquel & Wong, Joyce Cheng, 2011. "The Disappearing Gender Gap: The Impact of Divorce, Wages, and Preferences on Education Choices and Women's Work," CEPR Discussion Papers 8627, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Becker, Gary S & Landes, Elisabeth M & Michael, Robert T, 1977. "An Economic Analysis of Marital Instability," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(6), pages 1141-87, December.
  3. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521716284 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Konrad, K.A. & Lommerud, K.E., 2000. "The Bargaining Family Revisited," Norway; Department of Economics, University of Bergen 212, Department of Economics, University of Bergen.
  5. Libertad González Luna & Berkay Özcan, 2008. "The risk of divorce and household saving behavior," Economics Working Papers 1111, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  6. Helmuth Cremer & Pierre Pestieau & Maria Racionero, 2011. "Unequal wages for equal utilities," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 18(4), pages 383-398, August.
  7. Raquel Fernández & Joyce Cheng Wong, 2011. "The Disappearing Gender Gap: The Impact of Divorce, Wages, and Preferences on Education Choices and Women's Work," NBER Working Papers 17508, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521887878 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Lommerud, Kjell Erik, 1989. "Marital Division of Labor with Risk of Divorce: The Role of "Voice" Enforcement of Contracts," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(1), pages 113-27, January.
  10. Konrad, Kai A & Lommerud, Kjell Erik, 1995. " Family Policy with Non-cooperative Families," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(4), pages 581-601, December.
  11. Borenstein, Severin & Cournat, Paul N, 1989. "How to Carve a Medical Degree: Human Capital Assets in Divorce Settlements," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 992-1009, December.
  12. 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, .
  13. 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..
  14. Fernández, Raquel & Wong, Joyce Cheng, 2011. "The Disappearing Gender Gap: The Impact of Divorce, Wages, and Preferences on Education Choices and Women's Work," IZA Discussion Papers 6046, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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