I'm taking a economic course over the break and with no prior experience with economics, I'm struggling with coming up ideas for a prompt in relations to why people marry.

I thought the idea of specialisation of labour would be a good point and maybe risk pooling in order to lower shock from a sudden cut of a partner's income, but I'm struggling to come up with other "economic" reasons?

Do they have to be related to the theories, maybe complementaries in consumption which is where people marry others with same hobbies or pursuing the 'perfect' partner in order to pass on the 'best genes' etc?

These feel more like a normal reasons, with some relation to biology and maybe psychology and lacks the 'study on allocating resource scarcity' that defines economics.

Feel free to comment on my ideas, on whether you would disagree with any on my reasons as that would also help a ton!

  • $\begingroup$ People will provide a fuller answer. However, looking up Gary Becker's work on the economics of the family. $\endgroup$
    – EB3112
    Jul 21, 2021 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ EB3112, yep, that's the specialisation of labour idea which I plan to delve further into Gary Becker's model in order to expand the idea. I'm just concern that some of my other reasons might not be related to economics $\endgroup$
    – Coffeee
    Jul 21, 2021 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Economics:SE. Thank you for your question; please consider revising it to be more in line with our community expectations. Like many other stacks, we expect questions to provide evidence of prior research. That helps us to understand the question, and avoids our repeating work you've already done. Our help center, and other stacks provide additional resources to assist with revisions. $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1
    Jul 21, 2021 at 15:22
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think most of the reasons you've covered are pretty good. I think you're second guessing yourself because of how you've defined economics to be solely about scarcity. If you unpack it further, it's also about minimising cost/maximising gains (i.e. optimising). The genetic engineering aspect however, is of course, more disputable whether that is economic, and whether humans have that level of self-knowledge. $\endgroup$
    – EB3112
    Jul 21, 2021 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with EB3112 regarding genes. Even if the intention is to combine good genes, it's not how evolution works. It doesn't make decisions, and the humans (in this case) are only the vehicles of the evolution of genes. So wouldn't venture in that direction. $\endgroup$
    – BrsG
    Jul 21, 2021 at 17:34

1 Answer 1


Economists have come up with a multitude of reasons why marriages form. For a good overview of the literature see the book of Browning, Chiappori & Weiss (2014), Economics of the Family, Cambridge University Press.

To name a few.

  • As you mentioned there is the specialisation benefit. If, for example, one of the members is (relatively) better in household work while the other is relatively more productive in market work, it might make sense to specialise. On the other hand, it might also be that household members are complementary in household work (e.g. when raising children).
  • People might decide to get married because it gives them benefits (utility) in addition to material benefits. Think of love, trust, companionship, etc.
  • Getting married is probably the easiest way to have children.
  • As you mentioned: there is the risk pooling part. When one of the two partners loses his/her job, the income of the other household members may serves as a buffer. If household members are risk averse, it might make sense to pool incomes.
  • Being married allows one to share (what economists call) intra-household public goods. Prime examples, are housing, a garden, heating, transportation (car), or even food (as cooking for 2 is cheaper than cooking twice for one person).

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