Marriage in the Time of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic

40 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2021

Date Written: March 7, 2021


HIV/AIDS was the main cause of death among young adults in the 1990s. The sexual freedom from the rise of contraceptives and women's empowerment affected individuals' preferences for dating, marriage and fertility. In this paper, we investigate whether the HIV/AIDS epidemic from the 1980s onward, a non-monetary shock, affected people's preferences for marriage. We set out a simple two period non-cooperative model and demonstrate that under growing likelihood of meeting someone infected by AIDS, the expected payoff of people who got married in the first period increased. Then, using unique Brazilian data, we estimate the marriage gain in two different time spans, 1984 to 1991 and 1999 to 2010, respectively before and after the free distribution of antiretrovirals by the Brazilian government. Our findings corroborate that HIV/AIDS influenced marriages in the past, working as a response against the risk of being infected and increasing the marital surplus, especially for women. We also find evidence that the impact of HIV/AIDS on marriage disappeared once antiretroviral drugs were universally distributed, which significantly reduced the mortality risk of the disease, and therefore the expected costs of the disease. The perceived vulnerability to the consequences of HIV/AIDS decreased, resulting in a change in sexual behavior, thus reducing the value of monogamous relationships compared to the period without antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

Keywords: marriage market, family economics, HIV/AIDS, antiretroviral treatment

JEL Classification: D1, J12, I1

Suggested Citation

Hakak, Lorena and Pereda, Paula, Marriage in the Time of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic (March 7, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Lorena Hakak (Contact Author)

FEA ( email )

Av. Prof. Luciano Gualberto 908
Sao Paulo SP, 05508-900
551130915991 (Phone)
05508-010 (Fax)

UFABC ( email )

11991667932 (Phone)

Paula Pereda

FEA USP ( email )

São Paulo

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