Research Handbooks in Law and Economics series
Edited by Lloyd R. Cohen and Joshua D. Wright
Chapter 1: Is it Just about Love? Factors that Influence Marriage
Joseph Price 1. INTRODUCTION Marriage is associated with a number of positive outcomes. Married people live longer, engage in fewer risky behaviors, earn more money, and have better child outcomes (Waite 1995). Most theories of marriage suggest that marriage should have a positive impact on the health of both the individuals who are married and their children (Duncan, Wilkerson, and England 2006). First, marriage facilitates easier monitoring of a partner’s behavior. They note that “people behave better when someone with power to reward or sanction is watching” and marriage provides a situation in which there is someone watching much of the time. Second, the institution of marriage might come with expectations, obligations, and social sanctions against certain behaviors. Third, marriage facilitates a wide net of social bonds involving the extended families and friends of both individuals in the marriage. Fourth, marriage provides legal access to the partner’s resources and a system in which each individual in the marriage can take advantage of economies of scale.1 The primary empirical challenge in estimating the causal effect of marital status on various outcomes of interest is that there may be selection into marriage (with individuals who would have had better outcomes anyway choosing to marry). This unobserved differential selection may be driving the differences observed in past empirical work rather than being a causal impact of marriage. Ribar (2004) describes various empirical approaches that might be used to address this problem, including selection models, matching models, fixed effects, and instrumental variables. Ribar notes...
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