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 26: Vanity and social interactions

C. Simon Fan

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


As noted at the beginning of this book, the definition of 'vanity' here includes self-esteem, which implies that significant vanity may exist even in the absence of direct interpersonal comparisons. This chapter begins by further highlighting this point with a story about female virginity, which previous chapters also use as an example. Cian-er, the heroine in a recent popular Chinese television drama series entitled Migration to the Northeast of China, had a sweetheart on the show named Chuanwen. The characters were eager to get married, and hence Chuanwen's mother made the marriage proposal to Cian-er's father. However, the proposal was rejected because Chuanwen's family was too poor to pay the 'bride price'. (Cian-er's father needed the money for the marriage expenditure of Cian-er's brother.) The four-year absence of Chuanwen's father had contributed greatly to the family's poverty. One day shortly after the marriage proposal, Chuanwen's mother received a letter from her long-absent husband. To the thrill of the whole family, Chuanwen's father was revealed not only to be alive and healthy, but also to have made a small fortune in Northeast China. In the letter, Chuanwen's father asked Chuanwen's mother to send their three children to his new home in Northeast China as soon as possible. Chuanwen went to say goodbye to Cian-er, whose father had locked her in her bedroom. Although Chuanwen could not get into the house, he managed to talk to Cian-er and told her the story of his father's letter

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