Three essays on the economic theory of mating and parental choice
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Antrup, Andreas Hermann
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Chapter 1: Relative Concerns and the Choice of Fertility Empirical research has shown that people exhibit relative concerns, they value social status. If they value their children's status as well, what effect will that have on their decisions as parents? This paper argues that parents and potential parents are in competition for status and rank in the generation of their children; as a consequence richer agents may cut back on the number of children they have and invest more in each child to prevent children of lower income agents from mimicking their own children. This effect need not be uniform so that equilibrium fertility may e.g. be a U-shaped function of income, even when agents would privately like to increase fertility when they receive greater income. These findings have wide ramifications: they may contribute to our understanding of the working of the demographic transition; they also suggest that the low fertility traps seen in some developed countries are rather strongly entrenched phenomena; and they o er a new explanation for voluntary childlessness. Chapter 2: Relative Concerns and Primogeniture While pervasive in the past, differential treatment of children, i.e. different levels of attention and parental investments into children of the same parent, has become rare in modern societies. This paper offers an explanation based on technological change which has rendered the success of a child more uncertain for a parent who is deciding on how much to invest into each of his children. Within a framework of concerns for social status (or relative concerns), agents decide on how many children to have and how much to invest in each child. When their altruism towards each child is decreasing in the total number of children, it is shown that they may solve the trade-off between low investment, high marginal return children (that come in large numbers and hence hurt parental altruism) and high investment, low marginal return children (that come in low numbers) by demanding both types and hence practice differential treatment. Uncertainty over status or rank outcomes of children reduces the range of equilibrium investment levels intro children so that the difference in the numbers they come in is reduced. Eventually the concern for return dominates and differential treatment disappears. Chapter 3: Co-Evolution of Institutions and Preferences: the case of the (human) mating market This paper explores the institutions that may emerge in response to mating preferences being constrained in their complexity in that they can only be conditioned on gender not other characteristics of the carrier of the preferences. When the cognitive capacity of the species allows a sophisticated institutional setup of one gender proposing and the other accepting or rejecting to be adopted, this setup is shown to be able to structure the mating allocation process such that preferences evolve to forms that, conditional on the setup, are optimal despite the constraint on complexity. Nature can be thought of as delegating information processing to the institutional setup. In an application to humans it is shown that the mechanism of the model can help explain why men and women may exhibit opposed preferences in traits such as looks and cleverness. The anecdotal fact that women do not marry down while men do can be interpreted as a maladaptation of female preferences to modern marriage markets.