On the Economics of Marriage: A Theory of Marriage Labor, and Divorce
contains following parts: A General Theory of Marriage; Sex Ratio Effects; Compensating Differentials in Marriage (applied to labor supply and to religious intermarriage) ; Cohabitation, Divorce, and Polygamy; and Marriage, Productivity, and Earnings
This book deals with marriage from various perspectives.
From the perspective of the different disciplines, this book deals with
of marriage to the extent that most hypotheses
developed and tested are based on economic theory. It can also be
classified as economics in the sense that it touches on many topics
traditionally analyzed by economists, such as labor supply, labor
productivity and earnings. T his book can be classified as
demography, or anthropology
to the extent that it deals with topics
such as marriage rates, consensual unions, polygamy, and the
distribution of power in marriage, which have traditionally been
considered part of the domain of these disciplines.
While this book contains a lot of facts and
and touches on policy issues, the book's main contribution to the
existing literature lies in the
perspective it offers. T he
central part of the book is Part Two, which presents a general
equilibrium theory of marriage. Years of experience have taught me
that most people lack the motivation to read this kind of theoretical
material on marriage. Common reasons why people shy away from
such theory are the notions that (1) economics does not have much
to add to the existing literature on marriage, and (2) an economic
analysis of marriage leads to undesirable practical implications, such as
denial of love and glorification of selfishness. Since such notions are
so widespread, Part One of this book attempts to dispel them.
Addressing the first notion, the materials in Part One aim at
showing that other disciplines do not offer close substitutes to an
economic analysis of marriage. Chapter 1 compares the economics of
marriage with some of the related literature found in anthropology
and sociology. T hese disciplines provide a wealth of studies about
marriage, including some theoretical material. However, sociological
and anthropological theories of marriage have some drawbacks in
comparison to economic theories of marriage.
Part One also addresses the second notion that discourages
many people from reading an economic analysis of marriage, namely,
the notion that an economic approach to the analysis of marriage
leads to the denial of emotions and social or spiritual concerns. Most
people, including most social scientists, think about marriage either in
romantic terms, or in ethical-religious terms. T o some extent,
romanticism contradicts the economic approach. Romantics typically
rely on feelings in making decisions, not on rational comparisons of
costs and benefits. The romantic mentality stresses individual
uniqueness, and stands in sharp contrast to the economic approach in
which markets play a central role. Chapter 2 attempts to dispel the
notion that by applying economics to the study of marriage one
suppresses basic human tendencies for love and intimacy.
Some readers may want to start directly with Part Two, which
presents the general equilibrium theory of labor and marriage that
served as inspiration to most of the other papers in this volume.
Previous analyses of marriage, whether they were written by
sociologists or by economists, have not integrated marriage markets
with labor markets. T his theory uses a general equilibrium framework
to integrate labor and marriage markets. Predictions are derived
regarding the effects of particular factors, such as individual resources
and market size, on individual and market labor supply and marital
choices. T he two chapters in Part T wo complement each other.
Chapter 3 emphasizes theory and applications to labor supply,
whereas Chapter 4 emphasizes implications for the study of marriage
and divorce. Readers who lack a background in economic analysis may
want to skip the first part of Chapter 3.
Parts T hree and Four deal with implications of the theory: sex
ratio effects and compensating differentials in marriage. A major
implication of this general equilibrium theory integrating marriage
markets with labor markets, is that the sex ratio of marriageable men
to marriageable women may influence labor supply as well as
marriage. Part Three consists of two chapters dealing with sex ratio
The first chapter on sex ratio effects, Chapter 5, was written
for a mixed audience of sociologists and economists, and avoids the
technical jargon and statistical techniques familiar to economists.
Chapter 6 is addressed to readers trained in economics or statistics and
includes regression results. The two chapters also vary in the
generality of their subject matter. Whereas Chapter 6 focuses on only
one effect of sex ratio variations, namely, its effect on the
participation of married women in the labor force, Chapter 5 looks at
the effect of sex ratio variations on a number of social and economic
aspects of life.
The two papers included in Part Four both deal with
compensating differentials in marriage. Chapter 7 is a study of
married women's labor supply and shows how differences between
husband's and wife's characteristics, associated with compensating
differentials in marriage, add to our degree of understanding of
women's labor force participation. T he paper was written for an
audience of economists.
Chapter 8 attempts to explain an aspect of similarity between
husband's and wife's characteristics, what sociologists call homogamy.
The degree of homogamy in one dimension, such as religion, is related
to the similarity of husband's and wife's characteristics in other areas,
such as education, age, and divorced status. It is assumed that
compensating differentials in marriage exist. Hypotheses regarding
the likelihood of intermarriage between members of different groups
are derived and estimated, using the example of Jewish men in the
The general equilibrium theory of marriage and labor can be
applied in many different ways to the study of marriage, as suggested
in Chapter 4. Part Five presents further applications of the theory to
selected aspects of marriage. Chapter 9 deals with marriage formality
and cohabitation, Chapter 10 with divorce and labor supply, and
Chapter 11 with polygamy. T hese chapters test a number of
hypotheses regarding the effect of aggregate characteristics--such as
sex ratios--and individual characteristics--such as education and
income--on these aspects of marriage.
The theory of marriage presented in Part Two views
individuals as suppliers of spousal labor, and defines spousal labor as
any service benefiting a spouse. Such spousal labor is not simply about
washing dishes and taking care of the garden, but also about investing
in a spouse's human capital. People invest in their spouse's human
capital to the extent that household labor boosts the spouse's earning
capacity or other aspects of the spouse's productive capacity
(including the capacity to produce at home). T he papers in Part Six
of the volume all deal with aspects of spousal help that increase a
person's human capital.
Chapters 12 to 14 deal with spousal help aimed at increasing a
worker's earning capacity, whereas Chapter 15 focuses on the
contribution of a spouse to an individual's religious practice, which can
be considered as a particular aspect of home production. The last two
chapters are of an empirical nature. T hey both analyze Israeli data
and were written with Shoshana Neuman. Dafna Izraeli also
collaborated on Chapter 14.