Jeremy Greenwood, Nezih Guner, Karen Kopecky, 22 January 2020

Increased access to birth control does not seem to have decreased the number of unplanned pregnancies. Instead, as contraceptive technology improved over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, the percentage of non-marital births in the US rose. This column uses a marital search model to make sense of this seeming paradox, and concludes that advancements in contraception led to more premarital sex, an increase in out-of-wedlock births, and a decline in the fraction of the married population.

Alberto Bisin, Giulia Tura, 26 November 2019

As migration to Western countries has steadily increased, conversations addressing the issue have stalled somewhere between vaguely well-meaning integration objectives and restrictive closed-borders policies. This column moves the conversation forward by examining specific migrant communities in Italy. Using the language spoken at home as a proxy for cultural-ethnic transmission, it finds that higher rates of marriage between immigrants and the native population encourage a higher acceptance of minority cultures, which in turn allows immigrants to better maintain their distinctive cultural traits.

Elizabeth Caucutt, Nezih Guner, Christopher Rauh, 06 April 2019

In 2006, 67% of white women in the US between the ages of 25 and 54 were married, compared with only 34% of black women. This column examines the link between this and the decline in low-skilled jobs and the era of mass incarceration that have disproportionately affected black communities. It finds that differences in incarceration and employment dynamics between black and white men account for half of the black–white marriage gap.

Moshe Hazan, David Weiss, Hosny Zoabi, 23 March 2019

Countries such as England, the US, Canada, and Australia granted property rights to married women in the 19th century. The column uses US census and economic data from the time to show that the impact was financial as well as social. Women kept more of their assets as cash in US states that granted these rights. This reduced interest rates and accelerated industrialisation in these regions.

Martin Halla, Julia Schmieder, Andrea Weber, 13 December 2018

For the optimal design of social insurance policy, policymakers must consider how public insurance interacts with family dynamics. This column reveals how in Austria, the impact of husbands losing their jobs on wives entering the workforce is generally weak compared to other countries. This may be explained by traditional gender norms and the importance of the male breadwinner model.

Alexander Bick, Bettina Brüggemann, Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln, Hannah Paule-Paludkiewicz, 15 November 2018

The extent to which tax policies influence the amount of labour that private households supply has been at the centre of many public policy debates. Within married couples, joint versus separate taxation may be one factor that contributes to differences in household labour supply. This column uses a model that closely reproduces the changes in married women’s labour supply in the US and Europe between the early 1980s and 2016 to show that taxes are indeed a major factor shaping the labour supply of married women.

Hamish Low, Costas Meghir, Luigi Pistaferri, Alessandra Voena, 13 May 2018

Changing the terms and rules governing welfare can have substantial effects on employment. This column explores how the imposition of time limits for welfare receipt affected the employment, marriage, and divorce rates of women in the US. As intended by the reform, time limits decreased welfare use and the divorce rate, while increasing employment. Despite this, those women who were worst off prior to the reform are found to be even worse off after it.

Shuai Chen, Jan van Ours, 26 November 2017

A host of empirical studies have found that people in partnerships tend to be happier than those who are single. This column uses panel data from the Netherlands to explore whether there is a causal effect of partnership on subjective wellbeing. The results suggest that both opposite-sex and same-sex marital partnership improves wellbeing, and the benefits of marriage appear to outweigh those of cohabitation.

Johanna Wallenius, Max Groneck, 01 June 2017

At the individual level, social security is a strong source of redistribution from rich to the poor in the US, due to the concavity of the pension formula. But this column argues that spousal and survivor benefits, which are important sources of retirement income for women, introduce regressive redistributive elements to social security and also provide incentives for even highly educated women to stay at home if they are married to a high earner. A means-tested minimum benefit would simultaneously increase overall labour supply and reduce inequality, compared to the current system.

Laura Bottazzi, Sarah Grace See, Paolo Manasse, 18 April 2017

Modern Italy has more inter-ethnic marriages – a consequence of recent immigration. This column uses recent census data to show that  inter-ethnic marriages in Italy have a significantly higher risk of separation, which persists even when accounting for spousal traits and self-selection. The difference is smaller for recent marriages, reflecting a more secular society.

Charles Yuji Horioka, Akiko Terada-Hagiwara, 06 September 2016

China’s one-child policy and a general preference for sons increased competition among grooms, whose families typically bear marriage expenses. This is believed to have increased household saving in the country. This column explores whether the same is observed in other countries with unbalanced sex ratios. Premarital sex ratios are found to have a significant impact on household saving rates in India and Korea, with the direction of the effect dependent on whether the bride’s (India) or groom’s (Korea) family is typically expected to bear the brunt of marriage-related expenses.

Wolfgang Frimmel, Martin Halla, Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 18 August 2016

It has been widely demonstrated that parental divorce is associated with negative outcomes for affected children. However, the degree of causality in this relationship is not as clear. This column tackles this problem by using the level of gender integration in fathers’ workplaces as an instrument for divorce. The results suggest a causal link between divorce and worse economic outcomes that persists into early adulthood. 

Alena Bičáková, Štěpán Jurajda, 26 July 2016

Positive assortative matching between college graduates has been well documented in marriage markets. Using European survey data, this column explores whether graduates form couples within their field of study. A third of married or cohabiting graduate couples both studied within the same field. These results are driven in part by assortative matching, and there are notable differences across fields of study as well as across countries.

Marianne Bertrand, Patricia Cortes, Claudia Olivetti, Jessica Pan, 21 June 2016

Marriage rates of skilled and unskilled women have evolved quite differently across countries since 1995. The rate is lower overall for skilled women but the gap is narrowing, and even reversing, in some countries. This column uses evidence from 23 countries between 1995 and 2010 to consider how skilled women’s labour market opportunities impact their marriage prospects in different societies. Generally, more conservative societies have lower marriage rates for skilled women relative to unskilled women, with the effects of an increase in skilled women’s wages depending on the degree of conservatism.

Siwan Anderson, Debraj Ray, 10 October 2015

The developing world has notoriously low female-to-male sex ratios, a phenomenon that has been described as ‘missing women’. It is argued that this is driven by parental preferences for sons, sex-selective abortion, and different levels of care during infancy. This column shows that these higher rates of female mortality continue into adulthood. It argues that being unmarried, especially through widowhood, can have substantial effects on relative rates of female mortality in the developing world.

Nezih Guner, Yuliya Kulikova, Joan Llull, 19 January 2015

Married couples are healthier than singles. This column works to determine the direction of causality by exploiting panel data. In line with the evolutionary psychology literature, healthier individuals seem to be more desirable and are thus more likely to sort into marriage; but there also exists a ‘protective’ health value to marriage. It seems that couples encourage each other to take precautions.

Jeremy Greenwood, Nezih Guner, Georgi Kocharakov, Cezar Santos, 22 February 2014

How Americans form and dissolve families has changed dramatically since 1950. One of these changes has been an increase in assortative mating, i.e. how likely a person is to marry someone of similar educational background. This column argues that since education is an important determinant of income, these patterns of matching have had an important impact on the economy's distribution of income.

Shelly Lundberg, Robert Pollak, 29 October 2013

Marriage patterns have changed in the last 50 years as fertility rates declined and cohabitation became more widespread. These trends can be explained by a shift in the gains from marriage away from specialisation and towards investment in children. This column argues that different patterns in childrearing are key to understanding class differences in marriage and parenthood. Heterogeneity in preferences for – or ability to invest in – child human capital explain marriage and fertility patterns across socioeconomic groups.

Paul Seabright, 18 May 2012

Paul Seabright of the Toulouse School of Economics talks to Viv Davies about his book, "The War of the Sexes: how conflict and cooperation have shaped men and women from pre-history to the present”. He explains how game theory can shed light on the complex dynamics that create both conflict and cooperation between the sexes. They discuss the connection between the rise of modern capitalism and the rise of feminism, monogamy and marriage and whether there will ever be sexual equality.

Sara de la Rica , Juan Dolado, Raquel Vegas, 03 August 2010

The competitive paradigm predicts equivalent wages for equivalent workers, but significant gender gaps persist in many labor markets. This column analyses the gap in earnings between Spanish men and women, focusing on performance-related pay. It shows a strikingly large gap in pay and suggests that employer beliefs about unbalanced household tasks and outside options generate “a marriage premium” for males and a “marriage penalty” for women.

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