The economic marriage: on chasing the higher indifference curve in relationships
Michal Noer is a journalist at Forbes.com, who last year published a story on two-career relationships:
“Guys: a word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don’t marry a woman with a career.”
Noer quotes several sources to back up his claim:
“If they quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy ( Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003). They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Social Forces, 2006). You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001). You will be more likely to fall ill (American Journal of Sociology). Even your house will be dirtier (Institute for Social Research).”
Noer then goes on to citing classic economics, equating a marriage to a method of maximizing output via labour specialization to argue his case for not marrying a career woman.
“Traditionally, men have tended to do “market” or paid work outside the home, and women have tended to do “nonmarket” or household work, including raising children.“
Of course Noer’s piece is blatantly exaggerated to get his point across, and the underlying humour hasn’t passed this writer unnoticed. However, on some level Noer is serious. His questionable sources aside – (Journal of Marriage and Family – really?), the fact that men have “traditionally” tended to “market work”, and that women have adhered to “non-market” work is based on nothing but, well, tradition – who says it couldn’t be the other way around?
If both spouses pursue a career, their income should allow them to outsource “non-market” chores (e.g. to au-pairs with comparative advantages in child-rearing and vacuuming).
Moreover, Noer completely disregards the fact that smart, well-educated men with ambitions are usually attracted to smart, well-educated women with ambitions. It’s not rocket science. And perhaps being able to challenge and stimulate one’s partner might be the best way of landing both parties on a higher indifference curve?