Marriage Market: Formation, Selection, and Policy Effects

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 10:15 AM – 12:15 PM

Swissotel Chicago, Zurich B
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Manuela Angelucci, University of Michigan

The Marriage Market for Lemons: HIV Testing and Marriage in Rural Malawi

Manuela Angelucci
,
University of Michigan
Daniel Bennett
,
University of Chicago
Jenny Trinitapoli
,
University of Chicago

Abstract

Asymmetric information in the marriage market may lead to adverse selection and to postponing marriage. We model a 2-period marriage market with positive assortative matching in which one trait, attractiveness, is always observed, while a second trait, health, is observed in period 2 only, and show that making health observable in Period 1 increases marriage rates and marital surplus in healthy subjects, especially attractive ones. In HIV-endemic settings, HIV status is an important hidden attribute in the marriage market that cannot be easily signaled because testing is costly and stigmatized. We test the model through a randomized evaluation of an intensive opt-out HIV testing intervention, which lowered the cost of signaling one's health status by offering free tests to young women and their partners every four months for 2.5 years. Consistent with the model, the intervention increased HIV negative women's marriage and fertility, our indicator of marital surplus, as well as awareness of partner health, and the increase in marriage is bigger for attractive women. Finally, we relate our findings to the literature by showing that an alternative single-test intervention does not have these effects.

The Role of Marriage in Fighting HIV: A Quantitative Illustration for Malawi

Jeremy Greenwood
,
University of Pennsylvania
Philipp Kircher
,
University of Edinburgh
Cezar Santos
,
Getulio Vargas Foundatin
Michele Tertilt
,
University of Mannheim

Abstract

Eleven percent of the Malawian population is HIV infected. Eighteen percent of sexual encounters
are casual. A condom is used one quarter of the time. A choice-theoretic general equilibrium search
model is constructed to analyze the Malawian epidemic. In the developed framework, people select
between different sexual practices while knowing the inherent risk. The analysis suggests that the efficacy of public policy depends upon the induced behavioral changes and general equilibrium effects that
are typically absent in epidemiological studies and small-scale field experiments. The underlying channels giving rise to these effects are discussed in detail.

The Long-Run Effects of Elite Higher Education on the Marriage Market: Evidence From Chile

Katja Kaufmann
,
Bocconi University
Matthias Messner
,
Bocconi University
Alex Solis
,
Uppsala University

Abstract

We use administrative records on university applicants, their spouses and their children to estimate<br /><br /><br /><br />
the marriage market and inter-generational effects of being admitted to a more elite university program,<br /><br /><br /><br />
i.e. a program that is both objectively more selective and subjectively more preferred by<br /><br /><br /><br />
the applicant. We exploit unique features of the Chilean university admission system which centrally<br /><br /><br /><br />
allocates applicants based on university entrance scores to identify causal effects using a regression<br /><br /><br /><br />
discontinuity design. Moreover, the Chilean context provides us with the necessary data on (completed)<br /><br /><br /><br />
marriage and fertility decisions and with measures of spouse and child quality. We investigate<br /><br /><br /><br />
the effect of admission to a more elite program on three sets of outcomes. First, we find that it does<br /><br /><br /><br />
not affect the likelihood of marriage or of having a child. Second, being admitted to a higher ranked<br /><br /><br /><br />
program has substantial effects on spouse quality, but only for female applicants. Their husbands<br /><br /><br /><br />
perform 0.2 standard deviations better on the admission test and are 10 p.p. more likely to have been<br /><br /><br /><br />
admitted to a top university. Also, females are more likely to have husbands whose mother is college<br /><br /><br /><br />
educated and working (by 12 p.p.), and whose fathers are in high ranked occupations (by 21 p.p.).<br /><br /><br /><br />
Third, children of both male and female applicants admitted to a more elite program perform 0.1<br /><br /><br /><br />
standard deviations better on a national standardized test. Making use of data on child investment,<br /><br /><br /><br />
our results suggest important resource effects for men, while for women results are consistent with<br /><br /><br /><br />
genetic endowment effects.

Betting the House: Asset Accumulation, Marriage Patterns, and Divorce Law

Jeanne Lafortune
,
Pontifical Catholic University of Chile
Corinne Low
,
University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

There has been a tremendous erosion of marriage over the last 50 years, in particular among the young, poor, and non-white. This paper proposes an explanation for this phenomena, arguing that as divorce has become easier, and non-marital contracts better substitutes for marriage, marriage has retained value for individuals with more assets. We first show that marriage probabilities are larger for those with more assets, even when controlling for a number of other characteristics such as income, education, race, etc. We then provide a model with some key features to explain that pattern: couples can make an investment towards a public good but this imposes a future cost in terms of income for the partner who makes the investment; marriage allows the partner who makes that investment to obtain some "insurance" but that depends on the level of assets their partner brings to the relationship. Therefore, our model predicts lower marriage rates among those who expect comparatively lower transfers from accumulated assets than from ongoing flows. Young people, who may be on steep income trajectories, are likely to only delay marriage until a time when income will have risen, and therefore when asset accumulation will be larger. Individuals with permanently low assets are, however, more likely to forgo marriage entirely, and choose non-marital childbearing arrangements. We show that the predictions from our model are upheld using state-level variation in non-marital contracting, divorce laws, and housing prices. Increases in ease of non-marital contracting, through in-hospital paternity establishment, reduces marriage only for those with low levels of assets. Easier divorce, through the transition to no-fault divorce has the same effect: less marriage for low asset individuals, which is counteracted by asset-holding. Finally, using variation in housing prices, and thus the ability to accumulate assets, based on time of marriage, we show that lower assets marriages are less durable and have lower levels of child investment, aligning with our model's mechanism for lower marriage rates among low-asset individuals.
Discussant(s)
Michele Tertilt
,
University of Mannheim
Manuela Angelucci
,
University of Michigan
Corinne Low
,
University of Pennsylvania
Katja Kauffmann
,
Bocconi University
JEL Classifications
  • D1 - Household Behavior and Family Economics