Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Economics of Marriage The Economics of Marriage

Interesting article by the Undercover Economist, Tim Harford: The Economics of Marriage. This should be read in concert with the previous article by Megan McArdle: No Country for Young Men. Together, the two articles make a lot of sense out of marriage, divorce, sex, college, and the pill.

One of the interesting points here is the viewing of marriage through the lens of comparative advantage, and going all the way back to Adam Smith's pin makers. He posits that one of the reasons that we had stay-at-home moms for so long was that women had a comparative advantage in child raising, and that the combined wealth of both in a marriage was (often significantly) higher when the two specialized, just as Smith's pin makers did. When I was born, men would average 50 hours a week working outside the house, and women would average a similar number of hours in the home. But one thing that happened is that the 50 hours expended in the home has dropped significantly through automation. What he didn't mention, is that it also dropped considerably through smaller average family sizes (and, thus, fewer kids around the house, for a shorter period of time). Thus, the eon long bargain between men and women has broken down, resulting in significantly increased divorces, etc. Megan would point out that this caused the value of a college degree and profession to increase significantly for women.


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