Marriage, Sex and Babies

In most past societies that we know of, most people got married, most marriages lasted until the death of one of the partners, and most babies were born, although not necessarily conceived, in wedlock. None of these statements is true of the United States at present, and they are becoming increasingly untrue.

This raises a set of interesting questions. One is whether there is a plausible economic explanation for these changes. Another is what part legal rules have played, either as cause or effect, in the process.

The first step to the answer is another question: Why, in most societies, are childbearing and household production undertaken primarily by couples who have committed themselves to the long term, often lifetime, partnership called marriage?

David D. Friedman
Published in: Princeton University Press