Marriage, Cohabitation and Commitment
ABSTRACT We examine the physical and mental health effects of providing care to an elderly mother on the adult child caregiver. We address the endogeneity of the selection in and out of caregiving using an instrumental variable approach, and carefully control for baseline health and work status of the adult child using fixed effects and Arellano-Bond estimation techniques. Continued caregiving over time increases depressive symptoms for married women and married men. In addition, the increase in depressive symptoms is persistent for married men. Depressive symptoms for single men and women are not affected by continued caregiving. There is a small protective effect on the likelihood (10%) of having any heart conditions among married women who continue caregiving. Robustness checks confirm that the increase in depressive symptoms and decrease in likelihood of heart conditions can be directly attributable to caregiving behavior, and not due to a direct effect of the death of the mother. The initial onset of caregiving, by contrast, has no immediate effects on physical or mental health for any subgroup of caregivers.
- SourceAvailable from: Imran Rasul[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: We develop and test a model of household bargaining over fertility when transfers between spouses are possible. The model makes precise how the fertility preferences of each spouse translate into fertility outcomes. We show this depends on whether or not spouses can commit to their future actions within marriage. If couples bargain with commitment, fertility outcomes take account of both spouses' fertility preferences and do not depend on the threat point in marital bargaining. If couples bargain without commitment, the influence of each spouse's fertility preference on fertility outcomes depends on the relevant threat point in marital bargaining, and the distribution of bargaining power. We test the models using household data from the Malaysia Family Life Survey. This data set contains information on each spouse's desired fertility level, as well as fertility outcomes. We exploit differences in threat points in marital bargaining across ethnic groups to help identify the underlying bargaining model. The evidence suggests couples bargain without commitment.Journal of Development Economics. 06/2008;
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ABSTRACT: This paper models a two-person family. Each family member is utility maximising, yet family members are interdependent because of caring and public goods within the family. The two family members' interdependent utility maximisation problems are first solved using a non-cooperative, or Cournot-Nash, game theoretic framework. The Cournot-Nash equilibrium is then used as a threat point in a bargaining game. The paper provides a rigorous derivation of the properties of household demands, a full analysis of the determinants of intra-household resource allocation, including the effect of varying household bargaining power, and consideration of policy implications.Economic Journal. 02/2001; 111(474):722-48.
Article: Love, Betrayal and Commitment[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: We present a theoretical framework that captures a possible role for love and mutual esteem in supporting e¢ cient outcomes in dynamic deci-sions within the household.04/2009;
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Institute for the Study
Marriage, Cohabitation and Commitment
IZA DP No. 4341
Marriage, Cohabitation and
University of Colorado,
CID, Harvard University and IZA
Discussion Paper No. 4341
P.O. Box 7240
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IZA Discussion Paper No. 4341
Marriage, Cohabitation and Commitment*
This paper combines partner matching with an intra-household allocation model where
couples decide if they want to marry or cohabitate. Marriage encourages but does not ensure
a higher level of spousal commitment, which in turn can generate a larger marital surplus.
Individuals’ marital preferences and commitment costs vary, and sorting equilibria are based
on individuals’ marital preferences and propensity to commit. In all equilibria, some married
couples are able to cooperate and operate efficiently, but some married and all cohabiting
couples act with limited commitment and non-cooperatively. When spousal marital
commitment costs are gender symmetric, there is a pure-sorting equilibrium in which all
partners who prefer to act with commitment in marriage are matched with someone who has
the same preference. In such an equilibrium, the benefits of marital commitment accrue to
both partners. When commitment costs are not gender neutral, there can also be mixed-
matching equilibria in which a partner who is willing to act with commitment in marriage is
matched with someone who is not. In all such equilibria, the benefits of marital commitment
accrue only to those men or women who are in short supply. Consequently, a shortage of
men (women) who can maritally commit makes all women (men) worse off and materially
indifferent between marriage or cohabitation. An excess supply of men who prefer marriage
not only reduces the marriage incentives of men and raises those of women, but also the
marital commitment incentives of men. As a corollary, if the gains from marriage fall, not only
will more individuals choose to cohabitate but more married couples will act non-
JEL Classification: C78, D61, D70
Keywords: collective model, intra-household bargaining, modes of partnership choice
Department of Economics
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309-0256
* I am grateful to Pierre-Andre Chiappori and Yoram Weiss for their critical intellectual input but, of
course, all the remaining errors are mine alone.
A fundamental question in family economics is the degree to which partners in a long-
term relationship–be it marriage or cohabitation–can cooperate and act with some
level of commitment. While we do not yet have a consensus on this issue, whether
marriage typically involves fully cooperative spousal behavior or limited to no spousal
cooperation has profound normative as well as positive implications.1
The propensity to cohabitate has secularly risen in most, if not all, industrialized
countries in the last decades, with a commensurate decline in the marriage rates.
Cohabitation used to be rare in most countries until recently, which is why relevant
data remain scant. But Chiappori et al. (in progress, Ch. 1), provide some evidence
from Denmark and the United States. Accordingly, cohabitation is more common
amongst the young and the propensity to cohabitate for all age groups is higher
now than it was twenty years ago. Within each age group, married couples have
more children than cohabiting couples who in turn have more children than singles.
Moreover, the proportion of cohabiting couples declines sharply with age. Hence, we
have some evidence that cohabitation is an imperfect substitute for marriage, with
cohabitation involving a lower level of commitment.
The existing literature does make a distinction between legal marriage and non-
marital cohabitation in so far as the former reflects commitment and the latter does
not. Beyond that, however, there isn’t much to distinguish marriage from cohabita-
tion or the extent to which spousal commitment levels are endogenous and they could
vary within the institution of marriage itself. But to the extent that commitment
is not synonymous with legal marriage and individuals could differ in their attitudes
toward cohabitation and marriage, the trends in marriage, cohabitation as well as
spousal commitment ought to coevolve and they should be jointly analyzed. Put
differently, the fact that marriage as an institution generally reflects a higher level of
spousal commitment does not suggest that the behavior of married and cohabiting
couples could be analyzed in isolation from each other.
In fact, if marriage and cohabitation are imperfect substitutes and the choice of
partnership commitment could vary within marriage too, then it is important to iden-
tify the conditions under which some couples choose to marry and act cooperatively,
1For further details on the links between commitment and efficiency, see Chiappori et al. (2008),
Browning (2009), Lundberg and Pollak (2003, 2009) and Matouschek and Rasul (2008).
while others decide to marry with a lower level of commitment or simply cohabitate,
mostly refraining from a commitment to a longer-term relationship. Such a quest
requires a unified framework according to which marriage and cohabitation as well
as cooperative and non-cooperative spousal behavior can coexist in equilibrium and
individuals choose not only their (desired) marital status but their optimal modes of
behavior. The objective of this paper is to develop one such model.
In what follows, I present a model of marriage versus cohabitation and marital
commitment versus limited commitment in determining intra-household choices and
allocations. In the model, couples match to form partnerships, and individuals vary
according to their preferences for marriage and costs of commitment to cooperate
in marriage. Unlike cohabitation, marriage encourages but does not ensure a higher
level of spousal commitment, which in turn can generate a larger marital surplus.
Individuals’ marital preferences and commitment costs vary, and sorting equilibria
are based on individuals’ marital preferences and propensity to commit.
Married and committed couples act cooperatively in determining their intra-
household allocations. As a result, when two partners with low commitment costs
marry, they abide by efficient household choices and allocations. But when two in-
dividuals with high commitment costs and marriage preference match, they decide
to marry although they may not cooperate, whereas a match of two high-cost, low-
marriage preference individuals results in cohabitation. In contrast, if an individual
with a high commitment cost marries a spouse whose cost is relatively low, the former
can take advantage of his partner’s decision and extract all of the surplus generated
by their marriage.
The essential idea here is that a committed spouse makes a costly–and, perhaps,
marriage-specific investment–which leaves her vulnerable to opportunistic spousal
behavior. When spousal choices such as labor supply and production specialization
influence not only household incomes but allocations within it, cooperative behavior
would be harder to sustain because it could be costly for household members to
commit to efficient choices. Indeed, there are empirical findings which suggest that
spousal specialization and labor force detachment influence spousal threat points.2
2For example, married men work longer hours in the market and have substantially higher wages
than unmarried men, and married women work less and have lower wages compared to single women.
Together these findings imply that wives who commit most or all of their time to domestic production
could be worse off in divorce whereas husbands who work full time could be better off. See Gronau