Economics Uncut

Economics Uncut

A Complete Guide to Life, Death and Misadventure

Edited by Simon W. Bowmaker

This highly innovative and intriguing book applies principles of microeconomics to unusual settings to inspire students, teachers and scholars alike in the ‘dismal science’. Leading experts show how economics reaches into the strangest of places and throws light onto the occasionally dark side of human nature.

Chapter 5: Economics of marriage and divorce

Leora Friedberg and Steven N. Stern

Subjects: economics and finance, cultural economics, methodology of economics


Leora Friedberg and Steven N. Stern Why do people get married? Love, sex, children, money. Why do they get divorced? Probably for the same reasons. While most people would, at most, want to hear what economists have to say about the financial aspects of marriage, economists (who, surprising as it may seem, marry and divorce like everyone else) have taken it on themselves to offer useful hypotheses about the rest of it too. For example, they have studied whether divorce laws affect the divorce rate. Before 1970, many states in the USA required both spouses to agree before a divorce could take place; now, most states allow one spouse to initiate a divorce unilaterally. Under certain assumptions that economists have spelled out, the type of divorce law would not actually affect the number of divorces, even while it does affect the way that divorced couples share resources. Economists also have shown that the type of divorce law affects how married couples share resources, even if they do not divorce, and, theoretically, it might even influence how often they have sex. In order to understand these ideas, we have to develop a model of both marriage and divorce (or, in other words, a model that allows for changes over time in the utility from marriage). In this chapter, we will set the stage for this analysis by discussing trends in marriage and divorce in Section 1. The major changes in matrimonial patterns in North America...

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