Marriage can substitute for formal business contracts, especially in environments that lack a well established system of contract or corporate law. In such settings, marriage can facilitate the efficient organization of labor and capital. Peter Koudijs and his coauthor explore the pooling of capital as an explicit motive for marriage. They measure the impact of a class of married women’s property acts introduced in the American South during the 1840s on assortative matching in the marriage market. These laws did not grant married women autonomy over their separate estate; they merely shielded their property from seizure by their husbands’ creditors. This had the dual effect of mitigating downside risk while restricting a husband’s ability to borrow against his wife’s property; it also preserved the bulk of the wife’s assets as inheritance for the couple’s children. Using a compiled database of linked marriage and census records, they show that these laws were associated with an overall increase in assortative mating, suggesting that the ability to pool capital importantly contributed to the gains from marriage. At the same time, there is considerable heterogeneity in the effect in different regions of the joint men’s and women’s wealth distribution. In this Quantitative History Webinar, Peter will explain in detail their interpretation for these results.
Live on Zoom on October 29, 2020
08:00 London | 09:00 Amsterdam |16:00 Hong Kong/Beijing/Singapore | 17:00 Tokyo | 19:00 Sydney
Associate Professor of Finance
Stanford Graduate School of Business
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