Working paper

Do Spouses Cooperate? And If Not: Why?

François Cochard, Hélène Couprie, and Astrid Hopfensitz


Models of household economics require an understanding of economic interactions in families. Social ties, repetition and reduced strategic uncertainty make social dilemmas in couples a very special case that needs to be empirically studied. In this paper we present results from a large economic experiment with 100 maritally living couples. Participants made decisions in a social dilemma with their partner and with a stranger. We predict behavior in this task with individual and couples' socio-demographic variables, efficiency preferences and couples' marital satisfaction. As opposed to models explaining behavior amongst strangers, the regressions on couples’ decisions highlight clear patterns concerning cooperation behavior which could inspire future household decision-making models.


noncooperative games; laboratory; individual behavior;

JEL codes

  • C72: Noncooperative Games
  • C91: Laboratory, Individual Behavior
  • D13: Household Production and Intrahousehold Allocation

Replaced by

François Cochard, Hélène Couprie, and Astrid Hopfensitz, Do spouses cooperate? An experimental investigation, Review of Economics of the Household, vol. 14, n. 1, March 2016, pp. 1–26.

See also

Published in

TSE Working Paper, n. 09-134, December 2009