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Courtship as a waiting game

  • Bergstrom, T.
  • Bagnoli, M.

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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Paper provided by University of Warwick, Department of Economics in its series The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) with number 386.

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Length: 15 pages
Date of creation: 1991
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:386
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  1. 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, .
  2. Bergstrom, T & Schoeni, R-F, 1996. "Income Prospects and Age-at-Marriage," Papers 96-18, RAND - Reprint Series.
  3. Egbert Dierker, 1989. "Competition for Customers," Discussion Paper Serie A 244, University of Bonn, Germany.
  4. Roth, Alvin E. & Sotomayor, Marilda, 1992. "Two-sided matching," Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications, in: R.J. Aumann & S. Hart (ed.), Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 16, pages 485-541 Elsevier.
  5. Mark Bagnoli & Ted Bergstrom, 2005. "Log-concave probability and its applications," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 445-469, 08.
  6. Christopher J. Flinn & James J. Heckman, 1982. "Are Unemployment and Out of the Labor Force Behaviorally Distinct Labor Force States?," NBER Working Papers 0979, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Keeley, Michael C, 1977. "The Economics of Family Formation," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 15(2), pages 238-50, April.
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