Friday, January 22, 2010

More Men Marrying Wealthier Women

The New York Times article "More Men Marrying Wealthier Women" (January 18th, 2010) separates two inextricably linked boons associated with marriage: pecuniary and non-pecuniary gains. In particular, the article notes,
“Men now are increasingly likely to marry wives with more education and income than they have, and the reverse is true for women,” said Paul Fucito, spokesman for the Pew Center. “In recent decades, with the rise of well-paid working wives, the economic gains of marriage have been a greater benefit for men.”
without any mention of non-pecuniary gains from marriage (specifically, in terms of housework and raising children), it is impossible to understand who gains the most from marriage. For example, the figure below displays two levels of happiness (U1 and U2) that a couple can achieve (click to enlarge).

In period 1, the couple cannot obtain a higher level of happiness than curve U1. However, suppose that (due to a decrease in discrimination) women's earning ability increases at the same time that man's household production ability increases (perhaps due to the advent of easy-to-use household cleaning appliances). Now, looking at the period 2 curve, the couple can achieve a happiness level of U2. At their optimal point, the wife works more than she was before, but it is clear that both partners are better off--perhaps the wife gains from doing less housework. Ultimately, the gains in marriage do not have to be pecuniary.

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