Relationships and income – some thoughts
I really don’t know what the literature has to say about this stuff (there has to be a literature on this, even though I didn’t find much while looking for it..), but I had a discussion earlier today where some things related to the stuff below came up. Here are some thoughts that developed in my mind while I was grocery shopping a little while ago. I added a few other points as well at the bottom. I’m sure this is all very basic, but it’s easy to miss the obvious if you don’t actively think about stuff like this every now and then:
i. When it comes to income and relationships, my assumption would be that the potential set of partners available to an individual is more or less strictly increasing in the income of that individual. The richer you are, the more potential partners are available to you. This is because a marginal increase in income will pretty much never cause you to be considered less desirable on average (ceteris paribus). Even if this for some reason should not hold at the relevant boundary point, it’s trivial to show that in case the wealth of an individual is so high as to somehow harm the relationship opportunities of said individual, the decrease in relationship opportunities caused by this wealth level should be considered an entirely voluntary cost of being so rich; one can always get rid of ‘extra money’ in case it harms one’s opportunities. The wealth level should always have a positive impact on the relationship opportunities of a financially unrestrained optimizing agent.
ii. One thing worth noting is that whereas in some contexts income is a perfectly reasonable variable to work with, in other contexts it makes more sense to work with income differentials between potential partners because these will sometimes be more important. If the potential partner is a billionaire, she’ll not be impressed by his money when a mere millionaire approaches her. Also, I remember having read at one point that there’s an increased risk of divorce if the female earns more than the male (but I’m too lazy to look for the study right now).
iii. The effect of money on relationship opportunities is much stronger for men than for women.
iv. Threshold effects matter both at the lower end and at the upper end of the income distribution. In Denmark income inequality is low, so this part of the equation is probably less relevant than it is a lot of other places. Nevertheless, the jump from ‘uncertain unemployment situation’ or similar to ‘stable long-term provider’ I assume will normally add a lot of relationship brownie points, at least when considering the situation of a single male. On the other hand, the difference between ‘incredibly rich’ and ‘insanely rich’ isn’t that big of a deal.
v. The more potential partners are available to you, and/or the more potential partners you believe are available to you, the more you adjust your criteria for what constitutes an acceptable mate; i.e. the more options you have, the more picky you get.
vi. People, especially but not only females, who believe themselves to be high-quality partner material often forget about v. They like to tell themselves that they have few options, whereas in reality they have a lot of options, options which they are disregarding. A big part of what constrains their choice sets seems to be their own preferences. Cultural mores seem to encourage and enforce such behaviour.
vii. Education has become a much more important signalling device than it was in the past. Again, female preferences seem to matter more than do those of the males, so education is a more important variable for a male looking for a partner than for a female. Females generally seem to dislike the idea of marrying males with a lower level of education. See also v. When it comes to relationship dynamics, the difference in education level between two potential partners is arguably an even more important variable than is the income differential.
viii. In the relationship context, BMI and similar metrics matter significantly more for females than males. It therefore makes good sense that far more males than females are overweight. I’m sure that’s not the only reason, but…
ix. In general, age matters a lot more when it comes to the relationship opportunities of young and middle-aged females than when it comes to -ll- males.
x. In general, when people think they have more options they become less likely to commit and more likely to break up a relationship which does not match their expectations. High self-perceived relationship potential might actually cause behaviour which is most often associated with people at the opposite end of the relationship potential spectrum. This is of course again closely related to v.
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