Vanity Economics
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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.
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Chapter 17: 'Conspicuous careers', overworked society, and family

C. Simon Fan


When one refers to a 'superstar', familiar celebrities from television shows, movies, sports and music come to mind. Indeed, watching and reading about superstars are major leisure activities for many people, and the private lives of superstars often occupy newspaper headlines. The media creates the superstar condition to a large extent. While many celebrities often complain that the media overly interferes with their private lives, they also often use the media to increase their fame. It is well known that the salaries of many superstars are astronomical. For example, in 1997 and 1998, Michael Jordan brought in salaries of US$30 million and US$33 million, respectively. There is an appropriate nickname for these superstars: the rich and famous. Why do superstars make so much money? Rosen (1981) was the first to investigate this question. He begins his analysis with the observation that, as technology progresses, the best performers in a given field are able to serve every customer in a large market at a low cost. The best examples are the professional sports and music industries. In Shakespeare's time, an actor could perform for a few hundred audience members in a theatre at once, regardless of his acting skills. With the development of broadcasting technologies, billions of audience members can now enjoy an actor's performances conveniently through movies, television and DVDs at a low price. Continuous progress in electronics technology has allowed more people to enjoy professional sports and music performances via television and the Internet.

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