Journal of Economic Growth

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 323–356 | Cite as

The economic value of virtue



This paper analyzes the interaction between socioeconomic factors and the value and prevalence of female virginity. Using a simple model of the marriage market, in which premarital chastity is an important factor influencing spouse selection, we show that the prevalence of virginity increases with male inequality, social fluidity, overall economic development, the gender gap and, under certain conditions, social status. We also build a dynamic version of the model, showing that it can reproduce both the emergence and the subsequent decline of chastity in favor of a more widespread practice of premarital sex. The implications of our theory are consistent with some historical and cross-cultural evidence.


Mating Marriage Cultural values Social classes Gender 

JEL classification

D1 J12 Z13 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IRES, Université Catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  2. 2.Paris School of EconomicsParisFrance
  3. 3.IZABonnGermany

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