Co-author Confusion

When your co-author is your colleague and also your significant other, confusion often follows. Take this recent post by Arnold Kling on the causes of inequality, where he says:

I think that Betsey Stevenson/Justin Wolfers marriages are another big factor. That is, when highly educated men start looking for wives who are stimulating companions as opposed to kitchen-floor moppers, this reduces cross-class marriages and thereby raises inequality.

I’m flattered by the cite. I think. And so is Betsey (she thinks). But we’re not sure how flattered to be.

Which Betsey Stevenson was Arnold referring to?

Most likely, he’s referring to my co-author Betsey Stevenson, and this is a reference to the Stevenson-Wolfers theory describing the new era of hedonic marriage. More entertainingly, perhaps he’s referring to my significant other, Betsey Stevenson. She’s no “kitchen-floor mopper,” and so he is describing the rise of relationships like ours — relationships between intellectual equals.

Or finally, he could be referring to my marriage to Betsey Stevenson. That is, he’s referring to non-marriages. Betsey and I have learned that couples can form healthy unions without the default contract offered through formal marriage.

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  1. Ben D says:


    I am intrigued by the last paragraph. I did not know your marriage is a non-marriage. This is an option that I have thought about often. Can you expand on your reasons for choosing this as opposed to the “default contract.” And maybe some cost/benefit analysis of both. Perhaps you can blog about this in the future. Or maybe you already have written on this and can point to a previous blog/article.


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  2. kdg says:

    Not to get all NOW, but I’m trying to get past the “stimulating companion” vs “floor mopper” thing. I think smart girls know you gotta mop your floor from time to time. We just don’t talk about it.

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  3. Jeanine says:

    Does mopping the kitchen floor preclude being your mate’s intellectual equal? Or are educated, “stimulating” women expected to hire (female) maids and let someone from a lower social and economic rung on the ladder do the dirty work? Sooner or later, smart dudes, the odds are a woman will be washing your dirty floors, whether you marry her or pay her.

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  4. je says:

    If they were truly smart, they’d buy a robot to mop for them! I love my scuba!!

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  5. not confused at all says:

    Dear Ben D

    Ok – a friend of mind writes this piece- explains as follows- “it is not usually the case that vanity disturbs scientific enterprise”- perhaps he’s wondering if it is possible to eliminate vanity or is wondering about how science can be rid of the unhealthy part- I say it’s the latter- you guys are full of yourselves – except perhaps my friend- his name appears on title page (not on the cover). It is not easy to give up 1000’s of years of service– Ladies! It is time to start. But- by the same token, it is not easy for a man to admit the capacity to have a real original idea. That too needs to be acknowledged- There is much more than talent involved here- definately of the genius variety (his’) and yes the result of a collaboration between friends- that is it.

    Freedom at last for us all!

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  6. frankenduf says:

    that quote gets the dichotomy all wrong: the choice is between intelligence and beauty- beauty leads to more passion, and intelligence leads to more fulfillment- unfortunately, there is no easy way out of this quandary- love, in the end, is but choosing

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  7. rw says:


    If you need someone to explain their reasoning or logic behind not needing to be married to have a fulfilling, meaningful relationship then it probably isn’t for you.

    Choosing to not enter into a ‘default contract’ such as marriage is a personal decision. Asking Justin to explain his (and Ms. Stevenson’s) reasoning is more than a little bit invasive, don’t you think?

    That said, I can see where many people ‘need’ to be married in order to obtain medical/dental/societal benefits or to uphold their own religious beliefs.

    Having a marriage certificate is little more than a validation by the state in which you committed to your partner…If someone feels like they need this validation then maybe there is an opportunity to re-think the foundation the relationship is built upon in the first place.

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  8. not confused at all says:

    Dear Frakenduf;

    point- it may get it wrong-, but it’s the real truth- vanity did disturb the enterprise- we were all duped- til now!Thanks for your original contribution to this matter.

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