Sunday, February 27, 2011

What happens when the price of sex falls?

Economists take a look at college relationships:

...despite the fact that women are holding the sexual purse strings, they aren't asking for much in return these days—the market "price" of sex is currently very low. There are several likely reasons for this. One is the spread of pornography: Since high-speed digital porn gives men additional sexual options—more supply for his elevated demand—it takes some measure of price control away from women. The Pill lowered the cost as well. There are also, quite simply, fewer social constraints on sexual relationships than there once were. As a result, the sexual decisions of young women look more like those of men than they once did, at least when women are in their twenties. The price of sex is low, in other words, in part because its costs to women are lower than they used to be.

Note that this is what is known as an example of "economic imperialism," using economics to analyze phenomenon that are traditionally analyzed in other fields of study.


  1. While it's hard to disagree with the directionality of the economic analysis quoted, the rest of the piece was a mess. To mention but one example: the piece mentions a poll on the Florida State campus in which some men but no women say they would have casual sex with a stranger (the opposite-sex interviewer), then use this poll to claim that women have a lower sex drive then men. Even a journalist should see the non sequitur there. (Not to mention the cheap talk, as I presume the guys didn't actually have sex with the interviewers.)

  2. for that reason the study would never be published in an econ journal. The editors would require evidence of revealed, rather than stated, preferences.