Marriage as a Rat Race: Noisy Pre-Marital Investments with Assortative Matching
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We study the incentive to invest to improve marriage prospects, in a frictionless marriage market with non-transferable utility. Stochastic returns to investment eliminate the multiplicity of equilibria in models with deterministic returns, and a unique equilibrium exists under reasonable conditions. Equilibrium investment is efficient when the sexes are symmetric. However, when there is any asymmetry, including an unbalanced sex ratio, investments are generically excessive. For example, if there is an excess of boys, then there is parental over-investment in boys and under-investment in girls, and total investment will be excessive.