A Human Capital-Based Theory of Postmarital Residence Rules
Posted: 17 Jun 2008
Date Written: April 2007
In premodern societies, the residence of a newly wedded couple is often decided by custom. We formulate a theory of optimal postmarital residence rules based on contracting problems created by the nature of premarriage human capital investments. We argue that a fixed postmarital residence rule may mitigate a holdup problem by specifying marriage terms and limiting possibilities for renegotiation; the trade-off is that the rule may prohibit beneficial renegotiation of postmarital location. A point of interest of our approach is that the magnitude and direction of transfers accompanying marriage are endogenous. We apply our theoretical results to understanding cross-cultural postmarital residence patterns. We find some predictive ability in variables related to outside options, control over the environment, and potential degree of social control.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation