Review of Economic Dynamics 11 (2008) 614–628
Marriage, commitment and divorce in a matching model
with differential aging
Department of Economics, SUNY Albany, NY 12222, USA
Received 8 June 2005; revised 17 July 2007
Available online 8 September 2007
This paper analyses a matching model of the marriage market with directed, on-the-job search. Everyone is born attractive but
“matures” according to a Poisson process into unattractiveness. Marriages between equally attractive people are stable but mixed
marriages are not. The implied patterns of marriage and divorce are consistent with those identiﬁed in the empirical literature. When
the utility from being single is low, in order to commit to their relationship, attractive people in mixed marriages may voluntarily
divest of their attractiveness.
2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
JEL classiﬁcation: J12; C78
Keywords: Marriage; Matching; Directed search
As people’s extra marital activities are unobserved by their spouses, neither partner can credibly promise not to
re-enter the marriage market. This paper looks at how this moral hazard problem interacts with the aging process in
determining patterns of marriage, divorce and life-style choice.
A frictional matching model of the marriage market with non-transferable utility and “on-the-job search” is ana-
lyzed. In the model, new entrants are single and attractive. While everyone faces the same aging process, realizations
of the process differ across individuals so that maturity (i.e. becoming unattractive) will occur sooner for some people
than others. This means marriages initially between two attractive people will at some point comprise one attractive
and one unattractive partner. Being married to an attractive person provides a higher level of utility than being married
to an unattractive person. Mixed marriages are therefore potentially unstable as the attractive spouse might do better
by looking for another attractive partner. Moreover, aware of the possibility of being left alone, the less attractive
spouse may also re-enter the market in the hope of ﬁnding another unattractive person with whom marriage would be
While it can be mutually beneﬁcial for the partners to agree not to re-enter the marriage market, the attractive
partner in a mixed marriage will inevitably renege on the deal. Knowing this, the unattractive partner will renege too.
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1094-2025/$ – see front matter © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.