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Sweden: Increased Wealth & Marriage Outcomes

Study: Fortunate Families? The Effects of Wealth on Marriage and Fertility

In an innovative Swedish study, researchers have utilized the randomness of lottery winnings to explore how sudden wealth impacts key family dynamics, specifically focusing on marriage, divorce, and fertility. This comprehensive analysis delves into the intricate relationships between unexpected wealth and family decisions, offering insights into gender-specific reactions and broader socio-economic implications.

  • Objective: To understand how sudden wealth changes influence marriage formation, marriage dissolution, and fertility.
  • Methodology: The study employed lottery winnings as a natural experiment, providing a unique opportunity to observe the effects of unearned wealth in a real-world setting.
  • Population: Swedish lottery winners, with a focus on differentiating outcomes based on gender and income levels.

Findings on Marriage Formation

  • General Impact: Lottery wealth generally increased the likelihood of marriage in the short and medium term.
  • Gender Specifics: The effect was significantly pronounced among male winners, particularly those with lower incomes.
  • Interpretation: This aligns with societal norms where economic stability is often seen as more crucial for males in the context of marriage. It also suggests that sudden wealth enhances the marriage market prospects for men more significantly than for women.

Findings on Marriage Dissolution

  • Short-Term Impact on Women: Wealth shock nearly doubled the divorce risk for married women in the short term, indicating an acceleration of divorces possibly already under consideration.
  • Long-Term Impact on Men: In contrast, for married men, the study observed a decrease in long-term divorce risk.
  • Theoretical Alignment: These findings are consistent with economic theories of marriage, where wealth can influence bargaining dynamics within a marriage.

Findings on Fertility

  • Overall Impact: A slight increase in fertility rates was noted, particularly among male winners.
  • Attribution: Part of this increase in fertility among men could be attributed to their higher marriage rates post-wealth gain.
  • Economic Interpretation: This suggests that in economic terms, children are considered ‘normal goods,’ where demand increases with income.

Wealth Distribution in Divorce

  • Swedish Context: The study highlighted that in Sweden, divorce settlements often result in unequal wealth splits, favoring the richer spouse.
  • Implications for Bargaining Power: This finding implies that within marriage, the spouse who wins the lottery tends to have greater bargaining power, impacting family dynamics.

Comparative Analysis with Other Studies

  • Consistency with Previous Research: The study’s findings on marriage and fertility largely align with previous research in the field.
  • Income Gradients: There’s a parallel between the effects of lottery wins on family outcomes and income gradient patterns observed in broader socio-economic studies.

Additional Insights

  • Match Quality and Divorce: The study explored the impact of lottery wealth on divorce concerning match quality and duration of marriage. It found that the effect of wealth on divorce is more pronounced in couples with lower match quality or shorter marriage duration.
  • Gender Differences in Preferences: The gendered effects on fertility could suggest differing fertility preferences between men and women, although societal norms and economic constraints play a significant role.
  • Policy Implications: These findings have significant implications for understanding the impact of economic policies and income redistribution on family structures.


This Swedish study offers robust evidence of the impact of unearned wealth on key aspects of family life. The results underscore the intricate ways in which sudden wealth can influence family dynamics, shaped by societal norms and individual preferences. The study’s innovative approach and comprehensive analysis provide valuable insights into the intersection of economics, gender, and family sociology.