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February 21, 2007



I notice that most of the studies mentioned specifically in the PDF you link to refer to the effect of marriage on men. There seem, unless I am reading incorrectly, to be less in the way of study on who marriage specifically affects women.

I note also that there seems to be an assumed divide between "married" and "single". There are quite a few people I know now who are neither - they are "together" but not "married", at least in any legal sense. Do the figures on marriage vs singledom take any account of this third state?


7. This is an example of the fashionable "economics of happiness" confusing cause and effect. People aren't happy because they get married, they marry because someone else makes them happy.

Before some Tory arsewit rocks up and claims that because married people report being happier, we should make divorce more difficult[^[^[coerce people into staying married, I'll provide the standard refutation and save everyone some time.

Revealed preference shows that as divorcing makes people unhappy, but they keep doing it, they would otherwise be even unhappier if they were prevented from doing so.


Alex - here's a paper by Andrew Oswald suggesting that divorce does make people happier:
And here's one showing that happy people are more likely to marry:
Katherine: the figures ignore cohabitation, as my reasons do. Think of cohabitation as a joint venture, which is easily dissolved, but marriage as a merger, which is more expesnive to dissolve.

Mark Wadsworth

Your figures don't tally with these from the Ministry of Truth.


Reason 8. Divorce and child custody laws are so hideously skewed in favour of women, that married men have considerably LESS security than co-habiting or single men. One wrong move and you lose it all. And if Mrs gets bored, she can take it all anyway.


Snowflake5 refers to the rise in marriages between 2003 and 2004. There's no inconsistency.


Yes but Chris my point is that any analysis of being married and being single that ignores cohabitation (although that is not exactly/exclusively what I meant) is not a full analysis. The mental state of happiness of people in this third state must be relevant discussions about happiness in marriage and in being single, and also deserves some analysis of its own, given the number of people now choosing that option.


I think Katherine has it right; that this is just evidence of the specific institution of marriage going out of fashion. Fewer adolescent girls are presented at court as debutantes than in the 1940s, but that doesn't mean that rich young women aren't trying to find husbands at balls.


Don’t marriages involve one person of either sex? The fall in marriage rates could just as easily be due to men being less willing to marry. (Or a shortage of men, but so far as I know there is no such shortage.)

Whether a marriage happens or not depends on gaining the consent of the least willing potential partner. Popular mythology suggests that men are less willing to marry than women, and I can think of one piece of evidence in favour of that.

The editors of womens magazines appear to think that their readers are interested in articles on how to catch Mr Right. The editors of mens magazines appear to think that their readers are not interested in articles on how to catch Mrs Right.

If men are more reluctant to marry, then marriage rates are going to be controlled by their increasing or decreasing reluctance.

Example: Ten women wish to marry, and only one man. There is one marriage. Five women wish to marry, and only two men. There are two marriages.

Probably we should be asking why men are more reluctant to marry than they were.


One of the key factors is that women have made it less attractive to marry and this, in turn, has produced a new generation of hedonistic user males. Women then try to support themselves financially and the process escalates.


A slightly separate issue from my last post: The marriages available today are different to those of 1862.

It is much easier to leave your spouse than in was in 1862, but it is also much easier for them to leave you. It is only slightly harder than if you had never married in the first place. So why marry in the first place?

If the point of a marriage contract is to lock your partner into the relationship, why engage in a marriage contract that has no such effect?

Does marriage serve any other function, that cannot be served by cohabiting?

Perhaps we should experiment with alternative marriage contracts, and see which are most popular.


"The mental state of happiness of people in this third state must be relevant discussions about happiness in marriage and in being single"

Hmmm - I've done all three and my mental state was and is always fairly unstable. But I would say that despite the fact that it is easier to get divorced these days, I think there is a significant *social*, if not legal, difference between cohabiting and marriage.

What about the actual cost of marrying itself? I don't mean the long term costs: I seem to remember reading something that suggested the actual cost of the *day* - booking cars, getting the flowers, the church/mosque/temple/satanist altar/registry office, the meal for a whole load of people you see about once every five years, the reception, the goddam cake, champagne and the ridiculous outfits everyone wears - runs into *thousands* and it was this that was proving a significant variable in people's decision whether to marry or not.


But a wedding, Shuggy, is the only chance most of us ever get to stride around in top hat and tails. Dreaming, I suspect, of Ginger Rogers.


[What about the actual cost of marrying itself?]

good point. as a business school type rather than a "proper" economist, I'd hypothesise that as the wedding industry has been taken over from the church by private industries, they've moved to a low volume/high margin strategy.


My wedding cost a grand. I should publish a guide book.

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