More on the economics of love

There is an excellent article on the Stuff website about the economics of love, an issue we’ve written about a couple of time before.

While I enjoy using economic concepts to describe relationships, I hadn’t actually considered the fact that we have a lot more cold hard data now-a-days with online dating!  I quite enjoyed this:

Economist and chief executive of economic consultancy Lateral Economics, Nicholas Gruen, agrees internet dating has increased the efficiency of the market for love, but hints at a harsher reality for love-seekers.

”One obvious point is that online dating generates vastly more hard data about dating – so we’re getting much better information than we used to have. It’s showing that dating is very like a market with strong ‘objective’ values around which assortative mating takes place.’’

Assortative mating is the idea that people with highly valued attributes, such as good looks or intelligence, tend to pair up with similarly endowed partners. Most people think they are ranking people according to their own subjective values, says Gruen.

“But if you look at the evidence, there is a very strong assortative mating going on, so the best footballers typically have the best looking girlfriends and all that sort of stuff.

‘‘You mightn’t think it’s counter intuitive, but it’s certainly counter to the narrative of love – depressing for those of us who would like to buy into the idea of love as sui generis, but not so surprising if we look around.’’

Another example where looking at cold hard incentives trumps over believing there is some other guiding force that will magically help us out – superb.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so mean about the idea of hope – but to be honest, hope is more about consumption value than anything else right 😉

Update:  On rereading, some people may find that statement a lot harsher than I intended.  All I was meaning was that love and relationships do be appear to be based on preferences and choices, rather than appearing at random – and I’m generally a fan of being able to conceptualise things which makes me happy.

Let’s just hope that a recognition of the objective factors that are valued in the marketplace to relationships doesn’t lead to government interventions – or taxation … although I wonder if anyone will try to point out market failures in the dating market.

8 replies
  1. Eric Crampton
    Eric Crampton says:

    Fun ’cause when talking about intrafamily externalities in my 200 level class on Monday, I talked about how we’re all Lancasterian goods and dating is a matching market where everyone’s trying to wind up with the best partner they can given their particular bundle of characteristics (implication then is that if we legislate against one form of intrafamily effect we screw up the bargain made ex ante).

    • Matt Nolan
      Matt Nolan says:

      Interpersonal relationships are probably one of the best ways of teaching economic logic to students nowadays – love it

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