« Trends in health care coverage | Main | Women's pay »

October 07, 2008

The changing marriage market

Economists like to study the economic implications of marriage. When marriage is looked at from a market perspective, what recent changes are discovered?

Dr. Mike Walden, North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, responds:

"We do look at other dimensions of things like marriage, and what some economists are saying is you can look at marriage as either being based on a productive relationship or a consumption relationship. And the argument is that we've gone more from the former to the latter. That is to say, if you go back 50 years, economists argue that marriage was really based on a productive relationship. You had a division of labor, usually between the male and the female where the male worked in the marketplace for pay. The female stayed at home, managed the household, raised the children. So that was a productive relationship in the sense that each was looking for something else in terms of traits. The woman was looking for a man who could be producing and who could earn money. The male was looking for women would could be productive in terms of running the household and managing the children. Now, where it's more likely that a woman will work also - in fact, the majority of women, even those with young children, are working - economists argue that marriage is more of a consumption relationship, where you look not for these productive relationships but you look for a mate with similar likes and dislikes, similar hobbies, similar interests. You like to do the same things for fun. You're not looking for a division of labor. So the bounds, here, of marriage have changed, and I'm going to leave it to our listeners to decide if this is better or worse."

Posted by Dave at October 7, 2008 08:37 AM