Table of Contents

Vanity Economics

Vanity Economics

An Economic Exploration of Sex, Marriage and Family

C. Simon Fan

This book presents an accessible and sometimes controversial economic exploration of numerous issues surrounding sex, marriage and family. It analyzes the role of ‘vanity’, defined as social status and self-esteem, in social and economic behaviors.

Chapter 4: Marriage markets

C. Simon Fan

Subjects: economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, institutional economics


This and several of the following chapters examine the economics of mate selection for marriage. Economists assume that there is an explicit or implicit market for the selection of marital partners. As with any other type of market, a marriage market has two basic components: supply and demand. The supply in a marriage market is defined as the group of men and women who seriously and actively look for a spouse at the same time and usually in the same place. With increasing globalization, decreasing telecommunication costs and the introduction of Internet applications such as Skype, people can look for marital partners in different locations. However, most continue to choose their spouses through face-to-face interactions. An individual's demand in a marriage market refers to the kind of spouse they are looking for. While this can be complicated in modern societies, at a deep theoretical level the factors that determine demand in a marriage market are the same as those in any other type of market. These factors are preferences and endowments. For example, consider the fruit market. A person has a certain preference for fruit, such as apples and bananas, and a certain amount of endowment (money) for purchasing them. Given the prices of the fruit, the person's demand for apples and bananas is derived from their preferences and the amount of money they have for the purchase. If the person prefers apples, they tend to buy more apples; if the person prefers bananas, they tend to buy more bananas.

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