Discussion paper

DP4478 Unmarried Parenthood and Redistributive Politics

Political survey data for nine West European countries show that women have become increasingly left-wing compared to men, and that this trend is positively correlated with the decline in marriage in these countries. This pattern is mirrored in German longitudinal data (GSOEP), where transitions out of marriage make women, but not men, significantly more left-leaning. Analysis of public spending data for high-income OECD countries (1980-98) suggests that the political impact of non-marriage extends to the allocation of State resources. We find that the relationship between the decline in marriage and public spending on children is U-shaped, that is, declines in marriage first reduce and then increase such spending. This finding both supports the hypothesis that the decline in marriage lies behind the political gender gap and highlights the salience of popular support, rather than need, in determining public spending.


Pande, R, L Edlund and L Haider (2004), ‘DP4478 Unmarried Parenthood and Redistributive Politics‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 4478. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp4478