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The Decline of Shotgun Weddings: an equilibrium analysis

With John Kennes


It is well known that the tendency of unmarried pregnant women to marry has declined precipitously since the 1960s. This has been attributed to the undermining by new birth-control technologies of the "Shotgun-wedding" social norm that enforced commitment to marriage on pregnancy. However the fraction of marriages in which the bride was already pregnant before the wedding has remained remarkably constant. We develop an equilibrium model of singles choosing among three different relationship modes of sexual relationships. When calibrated to US data, our model suggests that shotgun weddings declined because improvements in birth control made unmarried mothers better off.

Former title: Can technological change account for the sexual revolution?