NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Terms of Endearment: An Equilibrium Model of Sex and Matching

Peter Arcidiacono, Andrew W. Beauchamp, Marjorie B. McElroy

NBER Working Paper No. 16517
Issued in November 2010
NBER Program(s):   CH   HE   LS

We develop a directed search model of relationship formation which can disentangle male and female preferences for types of partners and for different relationship terms using only a cross-section of observed matches. Individuals direct their search to a particular type of match on the basis of (i) the terms of the relationship, (ii) the type of partner, and (iii) the endogenously determined probability of matching. If men outnumber women, they tend to trade a low probability of a preferred match for a high probability of a less-preferred match; the analogous statement holds for women. Using data from National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health we estimate the equilibrium matching model with high school relationships. Variation in gender ratios is used to uncover male and female preferences. Estimates from the structural model match subjective data on whether sex would occur in one's ideal relationship. The equilibrium result shows that some women would ideally not have sex, but do so out of matching concerns; the reverse is true for men.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16517

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