December 2009

IZA DP No. 4635: What's the Use of Marriage?

published as 'Marriage as a commitment device' in: Review of Economics of the Household, 2012, 10 (2), 171-192

We use elementary game-theoretical concepts to compare domestic equilibria with and without marriage. In particular, we examine the effects of marriage legislation, matrimonial property regime, and divorce court sentencing practice, on the decision to marry, and on the choice of game conditional on marriage. We find that, in the absence of social stigma or legal discrimination against unmarried couples, a couple will marry only if marriage serves as a commitment device which facilitates cooperation.