The institution of marriage

Dirk Bethmann, Michael Kvasnicka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The institution of marriageis both old and ubiquitous. Yet, little work has been done by economists on why this social institution exists and why throughout history it has been intimately linked to fertility. We explain the institution of marriage as a societal consensus on the need to curb cuckoldry for the purpose of paternity certainty and biparental investment in offspring. By raising the costs of mating to individuals, marriage reduces cheating in society, a source of mating market failure, and makes paternity more certain. Men, in consequence, invest more in their putative offspring, a fact that also benefits mothers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1005-1032
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Population Economics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Jul
Externally publishedYes


  • Institution of marriage
  • Parental investment
  • Paternity uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Economics and Econometrics


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