Thursday, February 28, 2013

What do the numbers say? A cost-benefit analysis of love and sex

by Zosia Bielski

The Globe and Mail

February 28, 2013

How’s your marriage portfolio doing?

In her book Dollars And Sex: How Economics Influences Sex and Love, University of British Columbia economics professor Marina Adshade suggests that almost every option, decision and outcome in love and sex is better understood when you look at matters through an economic lens.

Adshade reveals how economics trickle down to our most intimate moments, affecting everything from teen pregnancy rates to child care. While people don’t consciously do the “promiscuity math” every time they fall into bed with someone, she reveals how economic factors shift consequences in our lives, and how this shapes the way men and women behave. Adshade spoke to The Globe and Mail from Vancouver.

Is it politically incorrect to view sex and love via economics – unless you’re talking about straight-up prostitution, where value is easily measured? It makes everything people do seem opportunistic.

Somebody said to me the other day that this is a very cold perspective. The value of the economic approach is to offer some clarity on the decisions that we ourselves make. These are decisions that we can measure: how people match on income or education or political beliefs and how long those marriages last and how happy those people are.

Let’s turn to some of your counterintuitive findings: Birth control has actually increased unintended pregnancy rates outside of marriage. How?

The rate planet-wide is surprisingly high, given how much technology we have to control our own fertility. The unintended consequence of access to contraceptives is that you get more unintended pregnancies because social norms have evolved in a way that allow people to more freely express their sexuality. When more people have sex outside of marriage, you’re bound to get more pregnancy and child birth outside of marriage.


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