A Complete Guide to Life, Death and Misadventure
Edited by Simon W. Bowmaker
5 Economics of marriage and divorce 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...
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