Does matching uncertainty reduce marital payoff? Evidence from China


How does noise in the information cue to the potential spousal quality affect marriage outcomes? We show in a simple two-dimensional matching model, a noisier cue to one feature decreases positive sorting on this feature and does the opposite on other features. While increasing noise reduces overall expected utility, the effect is asymmetric between genders and among people with different features. Our test explores the repeal of the mandatory premarital health examination (PHE) in China – a change making the health cue noisier. We find that this change reduced post-marital subjective well-being, particularly for the females and the healthier. A major channel for the deterioration is the decline in child health, which is associated with the decrease in sorting by health.

About the speaker

Li Han is associate professor of economics in the Division of Social Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She received her Ph.D. in Economics at Harvard University in 2008. Her primary fields are development economics and political economy. Her research interests include political economy in authoritarian regimes and public policy issues in developing economies. Her studies on political economy mainly focus on political selection and incentives of politicians in the Chinese context. For example, she has studied the recruitment of communist party members, the electoral outcome of village elections and its impacts on village economy, and the incentives of local officials behind their policy choices. Her research on public policy issues centers on education and social segregation.  She explores issues such as peer effects in education, the impacts of reforms in education finance system, and the effect of status transmission on marriage segregation in China.

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