Pop Culture Introspection, Part I: Why Do the Couples From The Bachelorette Do So Much Better Than Those From The Bachelor?

 Of the sixteen The Bachelor shows, only four relationships from the show lasted at least a year.  Only two couples are still together.  In contrast, five of the seven The Bachelorette seasons led to relationships that lasted at least a year. (Although only two of the couples are still together.)

Why the difference? Just chance, or does it tell us something about men, women, and relationships?

How Economics Explains The Rising Support for Gay Marriage

President Obama’s personal evolution toward accepting same-sex marriage has certainly made plenty of headlines.  But perhaps the bigger—and untold story—is the evolution of marriage itself, and how the generational shift in how we experience marriage underpins rising toward support for same-sex marriage.  At least that’s the idea that Betsey Stevenson and I explore in our latest column:

For our grandparents’ generation, marriage was about separate roles, separate spheres and specialization. Gary Becker, an economist at the University of Chicago, won the Nobel Prize partly for describing the family as an economic institution -- a bit like a small firm that employs people with different skills to produce both income and a well-run household.

Introducing "AI: Adventures in Ideas," a New Blog Series from Sudhir Venkatesh. Episode 1: Going Solo

This is the first installment of a new Freakonomics.com feature from Sudhir Venkatesh.  Each AI: Adventures in Ideas post will showcase new research, writing, or ideas.

A new book is garnering significant attention. In Going Solo, Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at NYU, looks at a growing trend in contemporary adulthood: living alone. How we live, Klinenberg argues, is shifting, and it could be one of the most important developments of the last half-century.

The Unequal Couple

Lucas Cranach the Elder’s painting The Unequal Couple (Old Man in Love) illustrates exchange in the marriage market.  An unusually looks-challenged old man, holding a gorgeous necklace, embraces a beautiful young woman, who seems pleased with the arrangement.  

Nearly 500 years ago, Cranach recognized that in the marriage market men typically exchange their earning ability for a woman’s looks and reproductive ability.  That is probably less true today than in Cranach’s time (early 16thcentury), but the evidence shows it is still partly valid.

It’s the Economy, Honey

Yesterday’s NY Times contained a very flattering (and quite personal!) profile of Betsey Stevenson and me. For me, it was all worth it just to get a great family portrait. (Have you ever tried to get a dog and a toddler to look at the camera at the same time?)

I don’t really have a lot to add, other than to say that I thought the author, Motoko Rich, did a fabulous job.  Hopefully it gives folks outside the ivory tower some sense of just what it is that animates the lives of economists.  And yes, I admit that reading it, you’ll quickly conclude both that we are passionate about economics, and that we fit the usual stereotypes about academics.  And if the article makes it sound like we are crazy about our kid, that’s because we are.

Why Was Jeremy Lin Overlooked, and Should He Get Married?

A reader named Xavier Fan writes:

Would love to see some commentary on the Jeremy Lin phenomenon in the NBA. Is this not a classic Moneyball-style "undervalued player"? Indeed, one of the best parts of the whole feel-good story (and there are many) is how consistently teams and coaches at the college and NBA level overlooked him before his breakout week. Even the Knicks were ready to release him a few days before his first big game against the Nets. Was he overlooked because he didn't "look the part"? Will this impact how scouts and coaches evaluate players? What is the current status of sabermetrics for basketball?

The phenomenon is indeed phenomenal, and there has already been a lot of interesting stuff written about it (including his overseas marketing potential and an anti-Asian joke-gone-wrong).

Economics and Open Marriage

I have to admit that it counts as one of the more bizarre requests of my scholarly life.  After all, I’m just a straight-laced economist. But in light of the Gingrich affair — (which one? the one involving his wife’s accusation that he asked for an open marriage) — the New York Times Room for Debate section asked Betsey Stevenson and me to give an economist’s perspective on open marriage. 

Marriage: More Money, More Problems

We included this in last week's FREAK-est Links, but thought it was worth a full blog post. A recent study of 1,734 married couples in the U.S. finds that money, indeed, can't buy you love. According to an article about the study, couples who don't value money very highly score "10 to 15 percent better on marriage stability and other measures of relationship quality than couples where one or both are materialistic."

"Couples where both spouses are materialistic were worse off on nearly every measure we looked at," said Jason Carroll, a professor at BYU, and the lead author of the study. "There is a pervasive pattern in the data of eroding communication, poor conflict resolution and low responsiveness to each other." Interestingly, materialistic couples' perception of their finances seems to matter more than their actual financial status: "Though these couples were better off financially, money was often a bigger source of conflict for them."

FREAK-est Links

This week, a new study says materialism ruins marriages; Italian PM Berlusconi thinks drugged-up stock traders cause market volatility; a scientist says memory, not practice, matters for success; does impatience make us fat? Russia's coming population crisis; and an $18 million sunken treasure.

Getting Married? Then Get Ready for Price Discrimination

A reader named Elliot Millican writes in to say:

At one point in SuperFreakonomics you mentioned a particular brand of hair clippers that are offered for humans and for pets. You noted that the human clippers carried a higher price even though they appeared almost identical. You went on to say that the pricing scheme is a simple result of the consumer's willingness to pay more for their clippers than they would their dog's. [Yes indeed: this is known as price discrimination.]

These hair clippers reminded me of something I experienced when my wife and I were engaged (8 years ago). Let me quickly give the background: due to limited wedding budget, we had our wedding at church and a reception at the church with cake, punch, and light food. This allowed us to invite as many people as we wanted because the church was free and the cake/food prices weren't terribly expensive. But we had a second reception just for family and wedding party at a hotel (for about 60 people). This second reception was more like your traditional wedding reception... open bar, sit-down dinner, and a DJ. In short, it was expensive, but affordable with only a fraction of the guest list.