In a well-known paper, Akerlof, Yellen, and Katz proposed a counter-intuitive explanation for the rise of non-marital births in the United States that emphasized how birth control and abortion weakened the responsibility of men to their unmarried partner’s pregnancy. The paper is regularly cited by social conservatives to support measures to restrict sex education and access to contraception and abortion. I argue that this use of the paper’s findings stems from specific modeling assumptions about “types” of women. I present a reformulation of the model using more reasonable “types” that generates precisely the same results, but with radically different policy implications.
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In the two decades preceding publication, the non-marital birth ratio had risen from about 10 percent to nearly one-third. The ratio continued to rise through the 1990s and early 2000s at a slower rate. Since 2008 the rate has stabilized at about 40 percent. A substantial portion of non-marital births now are to cohabiting couples.
Technically, this describes a Nash equilibrium.
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Hoffman, S. Abortion, Contraception, and Non-Marital Births: Re-Interpreting the Akerlof-Yellen-Katz Model of Pre-Marital Sex and Shotgun Marriage. Eastern Econ J 43, 352–361 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/eej.2015.51
- non-marital birth