Of mystery, romance...and economists

Insights Newsletter
19 February, 2016

Economics provides us with a useful toolbox with which to analyse the world. From Pareto efficiency, to perfect competition and rational irrationality, there is an economic theory that will just about explain anything. Anything, that is, except the romance between economists.
Yes, this is unchartered territory that most of us (I’m not an economist) are uncomfortable thinking about. A bit like a teenager realising their parents still have an active sex life.
However uncomfortable and unnatural the topic is, thoughts of economists and romance recently sprung to mind after the discovery of a nifty Bloomberg app that used marriage data to show how professions pair up. It threw up some surprising results. Male boilermakers, for example, tended to partner up with female auditors. Who knew? Perhaps it has to do with pressure.
Another surprise was that economists had a tendency to marry other economists. Had we not had the internet, this would not be a surprise. After all, how can romance not bloom between two economists as they solve for r2 between the dusty tomes in a university library?
But we do have the internet and digital matchmaking tools that significantly lower the transaction cost of finding that perfect someone, such as distance. Furthermore these digital platforms are designed to reveal people’s true preferences upfront, further streamlining the search process.
So why do economists choose economists when they don’t necessarily have to? One explanation is that they may be more in tune with their own preferences. And unlike John Maynard Keynes, who married a ballerina, the preference is for other economists.
Then again, perhaps the real explanation has more to do with analogue dating than digital apps. It is highly unlikely that anyone but an economist is going to be charmed by the pickup line: “Our society is under producing but I’m sure if we hooked up we’d achieve an efficient allocation of resources.” 

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