Courtship as a Waiting Game
In most times and places, women on average marry men who are older than themselves. We propose a partial explanation for this difference and for why it is diminishing. In a society where the economic roles of males are more varied and specialized than the roles of females, it may be that the relative desirability of females as marriage partners becomes evident at an earlier age for females than it does for males. We study an equilibrium model in which the males who regard their prospects as unusually good choose to wait until their economic success is revealed before choosing a bride. In equilibrium, the most desirable young females choose successful older males. Young males who do not believe that time will not treat them kindly will offer to marry at a young age. Although they are aware that young males available for marriage are no bargain, the less desirable young females will be offered no better option than the lottery presented by marrying a young male. We show the existence of equilibrium for models of this type and explore the properties of equilibrium.
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