Research Handbook on the Economics of Family Law
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Research Handbook on the Economics of Family Law

Edited by Lloyd R. Cohen and Joshua D. Wright

The Research Handbook on the Economics of Family Law gives us a series of original essays by distinguished scholars in economics, law or both. The essays represent a variety of approaches to the field. Many contain extensive surveys of the literature with respect to the particular question they address. Some employ empirical economics, others are more narrowly legal. They have in common one thing: each scholar employs a core economic tool or insight to shed light on some aspect of family law and social institutions broadly understood. Topics covered include: divorce, child support, infant feeding, abortion access, prostitution, the decline in marriage, birth control and incentives for partnering.
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Chapter 1: Is it Just about Love? Factors that Influence Marriage

Joseph Price


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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