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I’d just like to comment on the article Supply, Demand and Marriage, which was written by Robert H. Frank and published on August 6, 2011. It served as an eye-opener for me with regards to the application of economic principles in our daily lives.
I think it’s fascinating how economic principles apply even to marriage. Especially in this day and age when women are more independent and capable of making choices for themselves and when the economy is always tipping off the balance scale, I do agree that people now trade off romance for economic stability. I think that this is evident not only in the dowry system of India where men with better jobs are paid with larger dowries, but even with women in modern society who are willing to trade off love or physical appearances for financial stability.
I also agree that people respond to incentives. Parents of older women in India would pay prospective grooms more as this will serve as the man’s incentive for marrying their daughter. This also applies in other relationships where men usually buy expensive gifts for a woman in order to impress her and win her affections. Not only does the dowry and gifts in these situations serve as incentives for the other person, they also urge the other person to make a choice that’s favorable for the former. Here, it can be seen how people make choices at the margin. They compare the benefits and costs of things. For example, an Indian man may consider that by taking an older woman for a wife, the cost is that he loses the chance of taking a younger wife, yet at the same time, he also gains the benefit of receiving a bigger dowry. If the dowry happens to be more important for him, then he would choose to marry the older woman. Similarly, when a rich man constantly gives a woman expensive gifts, the woman can consider having the rich man as her partner, yet at the cost of sacrificing her affections for the guy next door who waits tables at the nearby restaurant. On the other hand, however, if she chooses the rich man then she gains the benefit of living a comfortable life. If her priority is to live a comfortable life then she would probably choose the rich man.
The principle of supply and demand was also evident especially during the period of the baby boom. With a shortage of potential men for marriage (supply) and the increased demand for them, the price of men increased so-to-speak, which gave them the privilege of “calling the shots” when it came to relationships; thus, giving way to the sexual revolution. Similarly, the emergence of oral contraceptives contributed to the sexual revolution in that it reduced the marginal costs of such relationships for women, that is, they could now prevent the costs – both physical and financial – that would be incurred from unwanted pregnancies.
Although the opposite is true in China, the same principles apply. Here, men (demand) outnumber the women (supply) and so the women are the ones “calling the shots.” They are careful in choosing men who are financially well off and they base this on the size of the man’s house. Here, the labor theory of value applies where women equate a bigger house (requiring more labor to construct) to a greater value.
Needless to say, this article made me realize that we apply economic principles in our everyday lives without being aware that we’re doing so. This article made me think more about how we make choices in the various aspects of our lives and it helped me gain a greater appreciation of how we naturally make use of such principles to make sure that we make the right choices.
Frank, R. H. (2011, August 6). Supply, Demand and Marriage. The New York Times. Retrieved