In another great example of bouncing topics around in the often-academic blogs, we have this:
Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers wrote an article for Cato Unbound: “Marriage and the Market“. Here is a brief summary of their idea (the exact snippet chosen is stolen directly from Arnold Kling):
So what drives modern marriage? We believe that the answer lies in a shift from the family as a forum for shared production, to shared consumption…the key today is consumption complementarities – activities that are not only enjoyable, but are more enjoyable when shared with a spouse. We call this new model of sharing our lives “hedonic marriage”.
…Hedonic marriage is different from productive marriage. In a world of specialization, the old adage was that “opposites attract,” and it made sense for husband and wife to have different interests in different spheres of life. Today, it is more important that we share similar values, enjoy similar activities, and find each other intellectually stimulating. Hedonic marriage leads people to be more likely to marry someone of their similar age, educational background, and even occupation. As likes are increasingly marrying likes, it isn’t surprising that we see increasing political pressure to expand marriage to same-sex couples.
…the high divorce rates among those marrying in the 1970s reflected a transition, as many married the right partner for the old specialization model of marriage, only to find that pairing hopelessly inadequate in the modern hedonic marriage.
It produced a flurry of responses and reactions, but the chain I want to follow is this one:
- From The Economist’s in-house blogger(s): “The age of hedonic marriage“
- In turn, Bryan Caplan wondered: “How Can Guys Be So Lazy Around the House?“
- Megan McArdle took umbrage with Bryan’s views in: “Marriage minded“
- Finally, Tyler Cowen, who had already encouraged his readers to look at Betsey and Justin’s piece, reacted to Bryan and Megan with: “Bargaining theory“
Which finally brings me to why I wrote this entry. I love this sentence from Tyler:
Symbolic goods usually have marginal values higher than their marginal costs of production; Americans for instance love the idea of their flags but the cloth is pretty cheap, especially if it comes from China.