Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 347–376 | Cite as

Happily ever after? Intrahousehold bargaining and the distribution of utility within marriage

  • Dirk Bethmann
  • Robert Rudolf


Using a rich longitudinal data set of married couples from the Korean Labor and Income Panel Study, this article seeks to uncover the intramarital allocation of experienced utility and its drivers. We find both substantial gains from marriage and effects of relative predicted earnings outside of marriage on relative gains from marriage. These findings are consistent with cooperative bargaining models and with models viewing individuals as having a demand for household production services by a spouse, with market forces influencing the price of such services. In addition, we find that men benefit more from marriage than women and that this gender gap is more pronounced for older couples. This is likely to be due to social norms and prescribed gender roles which are more prevalent within the older generation.


Intrahousehold bargaining Marriage Happiness Gender asymmetry Generation effect 

JEL Classification

C78 D10 I31 J12 J16 



The authors thank the Editor and an unknown reviewer for their very helpful comments. They further would like to thank the participants of the 24th IAFFE Annual Conference, the 11th World Congress of the Econometric Society and the 1st World Congress of Comparative Economics for valuable comments. The paper further benefitted from fruitful discussions with Stephan Klasen, Inma Martinez-Zarzoso, Jinyoung Kim, Beomsoo Kim, Seik Kim, and Sung-jin Kang. This research benefitted from Korea University (KU) research funding. Bethmann’s research was supported by the KU grant K1509031.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsKorea UniversitySeongbuk-guSouth Korea
  2. 2.Division of International StudiesKorea UniversitySeongbuk-guSouth Korea

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