Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Why men pay to stay married

Steven Landsburgh's classic article

In the year following a divorce, women's living standards fall by 27 percent while men's living standards rise by 10 percent. What explains this?
...A 30-year-old woman who wants a family is getting close to the point where she has to choose the best of her available suitors. A 30-year-old man can always choose to wait another five or 10 years till someone better comes along. In general, the longer you spend searching for something—be it a car, a house, or a life partner—the happier you're going to be with the one you end up with. So—again, with myriad exceptions—a woman's optimal strategy is to settle for an imperfect mate and then try to change him. A man's optimal strategy is to search until he finds someone close to perfect. It's therefore no surprise that women, more often than men, should end up regretting their choices. 
In hindsight, it all makes sense. Once you realize there's a biological clock, you should be able to predict that men (having searched long and hard for the perfect partner) would make financial sacrifices to preserve their marriages, and that women who stay married to imperfect partners would be kept in their marriages by financial rewards—or, to say the same thing another way, that women who leave their marriages would make financial sacrifices. (And you should also be able to make a lot of auxiliary predictions, such as this one: Wives try harder to mold their husbands than husbands try to mold their wives—because husbands wait until they've found wives who need relatively little molding.) Fairness never had anything to do with it.


  1. The kids are catching onto this too...


  2. I found one fact that supports his premise, somewhat - the 2012 US Government Accountability report states that men's avg household income after divorce falls by 20% (compared to women's falling by 40%).

    But the rest of his logic is pretty easy to pick apart. Of particular weakness is his statement having to do with men searching and waiting for the perfect mate. According to the 2017 US Census 'long and hard' equates to 2 years.
    (average age at first marriage - women: 27.4, men: 29.5)
    Based on census numbers, you could say that men's biological clocks tick almost as loudly as women's.

    In the worst case scenario for a man, he has children with a woman who didn't work and doesn't have any career experience. In those cases, a man has to give up half of his assets, pay alimony and child support. But even in that case, he has fewer people he's supporting, so he needs fewer assets and requires less income to maintain the same standard of living. Plus, the alimony and child support payments are temporary.

    Maybe I don't value money as much as the author of this article, but I'd pay the money and get out if I was unhappy. Of course, I'm a woman, so unless I was a complete beast of a person, I'd get the kids.

    Most men I know who are unhappily married choose to stay married not really for the money, but to be a part of the kids' lives while they're young.