Where Did it Go Wrong? Marriage and Divorce in Malawi
56 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2016 Last revised: 9 Aug 2018
Date Written: July 1, 2018
Do individuals marry and divorce for economic reasons? Can we measure the economic attractiveness of a person's marriage market? We answer these questions using a structural model of consumer-producer households that is applied to rich data from Malawi. Using revealed preference conditions for a stable marriage market, we define the economic attractiveness of a potential match as the difference between the potential value of consumption and leisure with the new partner and the value of consumption and leisure in the current marriage. We estimate this marital instability measure for every pair in geographically defined marriage markets in 2010. We find that the marital instability measure is predictive of future divorces, particularly for women with attractive outside options. We further show that this estimated effect on divorce is mitigated by the woman's age, and by a lack of men, relative to women, in the marriage market, showing that these factors interact with the economic attractiveness of the remarriage market in decisions about divorce. These findings provide out-of-sample validation of our model and the first structural evidence that the value of the marriage market matters for divorce decisions.
Keywords: marriage market, divorce, Malawi, agricultural production, revealed preference
JEL Classification: D11, D12, D13, J12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation