Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Reader, I Married Him for His Money

It occurs to me that my previous post might help explain why traditional patterns of marriage have persisted in the upper class. A certain percentage of men are going to invest in professional development as an avenue to sexual success. (After all, I bet that people in LTCRs are actually having more sex on average than people who stick to the casual hookup market - it's just that LTCRs are harder work. Also, possibly casual sex is higher-quality, though I am not so sure about that. Anyway there are always going to be ugly, humorless men who have little chance of getting laid other than via the LTCR market, so they we [oops] will have the traditional incentives with respect to self-improvement.)

So these men invest in human capital and become excellent LTCR prospects from an economic perspective. Crucially, though, they we can only reap the rewards of their our investment in the LTCR market. In the casual sex market, their our suitability gets them us nothing.

And of course, men who have invested in human capital tend to be high-income. This may explain what we observe: marriage persists in the high-income brackets but has declined significantly everywhere else.


Blogger Sarang said...

Ah but aren't prettier people also richer and smarter?

10:08 AM  
Blogger Sarang said...

PS I think that what is most annoying about your set of posts (and Douthat's thinking on this topic, too) is the conflation of autobiography/personal-experience with statistics that have very little to do with that personal experience. There simply isn't an explosion of single motherhood among the socioeconomic strata you usually hang out with. There are people whining in the Atlantic about how they cannot find husbands, but that is not the same thing. And on the other hand, I have no confidence in your (or Douthat's) level of personal acquaintance with young men with no/little college, and of the incentive structures that they're faced with.

Re the income thing it is also worth pointing out that (b'se of low and declining income mobility) most people in the high brackets were born there, and marry partners who were also born there. So I am not sure there is a game theoretic story here at all (even as opposed to, say, a gamete-theoretic story).

10:21 AM  
Blogger James said...

So I don't see your point.

1. The point is not whether prettier people are richer and smarter but whether richer and smarter people are prettier. It turns out the answer is: not always.

2. I don't see how you can criticize Douthat and me for writing about people outside our socieconomic stratum and yet not have a problem with Yglesias. We're all writing about people whose lives we are not intimately familiar with. I could understand a criticism along the lines of: "James, you shouldn't have a strong opinion on this issue, since you don't know these people. I certainly don't." But to take the position, "James, you should be like me and adopt a strong opinion that is opposite the one you have" doesn't seem like the kind of argument you should be making if you think lack of personal familiarity is an argument against strong opinions.

I'll write a post about rich people.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Sarang said...

A day late responding to this, but (1) inverting the conditional probabilities will tell you that at the population level, richer and smarter people are prettier. (2) It is reasonable to talk about people whose lifestyles you don't understand, as long as you don't project your own lifestyle onto them; the step where Douthat steps into nonsense is where he brings the X-boxes and such into his argument. The less detailed/more anodyne an assumption about human behavior is, the less problematic it is to make that assumption about people you do not know. I think Yglesias's view on this matter falls into such a category. (Also he's claiming that there's no crisis, which is obviously the side with lower burden-of-proof.)

By the way, you misunderstand me if you think I'm trying to persuade you of the validity counter-model I've been using in these posts. I am not really interested in defending this model on the merits; my aims are purely destructive. My general prejudice, in these matters, is that virtually all causal stories are false or unprovable.

8:08 PM  

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