Home » Policy for marriage theory: the economic efficiency – and fairness – of prenuptial agreements

Policy for marriage theory: the economic efficiency – and fairness – of prenuptial agreements

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WP 2022-01.

Prenuptial agreements or contracts (also known as prenups) are written contracts that enable affianced parties to organize their rights upon marrying, and eventually facilitate the procedure of divorce. They consist in a general agreement between partners about the custody of children, family’s assets, and many more things related to the household. While in some countries, such as the United StatesBelgium and the Netherlands, prenups are a well-known institution regularly adopted by couples, in other countries they have not attained legal status. This paper deals with prenups by adopting a history of economic thought perspective. Its aim is twofold: 1) to highlight the necessity to reform prenups, which should not merely be intended as a set of conditions in case of separation and divorce, but as agreements between spouses on how to properly handle the conditions within the new household, such as intra-house division of labor and child care; 2) to show that if prenuptial contracts include not only conditions in case of separation and divorce, but also agreement in sharing responsibilities between partners, prenups should be welcomed by both standard economics, based on efficiency as the ultimate benchmark, and by less standard economics, such as feminist economics, more oriented toward fairness and a possible resolution of the “double burden” of wage work and housework, which is usually on women, or on the weaker (in terms of economic clout) partner in case of same-sex couples.

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