Season 1, Episode 6: Money

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If you have comments, ideas, or suggestions for future episodes, you can contact Carrie Jenkins here.

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Labels of Love logo designed by Jen Sung.

Show notes photography by Jonathan Ichikawa.

Labels of Love is a research creation outcome of the Metaphysics of Love Project, supported by The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Additional financial support for the project comes from the Canada Research Chairs program and the University of British Columbia.

I am grateful for help, guidance, feedback, and support from:
Marina Adshade, Drusilla, Ray Hsu, Jonathan Ichikawa, and Mezzo.


[Speaking in this episode you can hear: Marina Adshade, Carrie Jenkins, and Jonathan Ichikawa.]

Marina: You know, there’s a lot of pearl clutching when it comes to marriage, and hand wringing, and "marriage, it’s not like what it used to be." Thank goodness it’s not what it used to be!

Carrie: Right?

Marina: This has got to be a good thing.

Jonathan: You’re listening to Labels Of Love.

Carrie: Hi and welcome to the podcast. I'm Carrie Jenkins, a philosophy professor at the University of British Columbia, and the author of What Love Is and What It Could Be. Today, I'm talking about money with Marina Adshade. Marina is a professor of economics, and she's also the author of Dollars and Sex: How Economics Influences Sex and Love. I spoke with Marina about how relationships are changing over time in tandem with economic factors, and how she predicts that these changes will play out as we move into the future. You're gonna want to stick around for that part at the end: it does involve sex robots.

Marina: I'm an economist who specializes in the economics of sex and love. When they hear "economics of sex and love" a lot of people go automatically to the concept of the – I’m doing air quotes here – the "gold digger." Online dating: economists love this, because it creates so much data on how people search for relationships, what really matters, how that differs by gender. What you find when you look at it is that while it's true that income matters more to women than it does to men, women really do care about other things other than money. They care about looks just like men do. Just having money is just not enough. You could be extremely wealthy and people wouldn't marry you if you were, you know, not a pleasant person to be around. Most people are looking for something else. Marriage is way less about economics than it used to be. Marriage used to be the main source of income for women; it's not the main source of income anymore. And what that means is it frees women up to choose on a variety of different dimensions that matter to them. Whenever I say "marriage," I really just mean "everybody who lives together." Stats Canada just came out with a new census report on the 2016 census, and they don't even differentiate in their statistics between people who cohabitate and people who are legally married. So marriage by and large in the past wasn’t about property; this is, I think, largely myth. When ninety percent of the land is owned by one percent of the population, and everybody is married, this is not about property.

Carrie: Right.

Marina: Right? Whenever we hear about dating, we hear about university-educated women. That is the class of women that we are currently fascinated with, and everybody else seems to fall away. And historically, when we look at behaviour, we often look at the Downton Abbeys. We don't look at the behaviour of the average people, and in the past, average people got married just like everybody else.

Carrie: Yeah, yeah.

Marina: And it wasn't about power, and it wasn't about land. It was about something else, and that something else is about coming together and creating a productive unit. Economists view traditional marriage – which doesn’t really exist in the same way anymore – but we view traditional marriage like a firm. And you'd have a firm where you might have two people, they come together and they bring individual talents to the firm, and that would be a productive firm. So marriage was a productive unit in the same sense – that people came together, and they brought different things. And where we traditionally had marriage between a man and a woman, what the man brought to the relationship was, you know, the ability to provide income for the family, or grow food for the family, and women brought the ability to produce children and to specialize in child rearing and housekeeping. Marriages aren't like that anymore because women no longer need men for income – or, many women don't. People are having fewer children.

Carrie: Right.

Marina: People come together for entirely different reasons that are not really economic reasons, and really, it's just the joy of sharing your life with another person. As the economic component of marriage has fallen away, we see men and women marrying people who are very similar to each other. In economics we call this "marital sorting" – it's like everyone sorts themselves into little groups, and then they marry within that group. Because it's not an economic arrangement. It’s because we’re looking for something else: that joy of sharing your life with another person. People do still find love essentially on markets, and so the way the markets operate are really important. We're seeing it constantly evolving. The biggest change in marriage markets wasn't online dating; the big innovation is the social networking sites in 2003. We have bigger social circles now, and it's changed the way that we search. More and more choice essentially leads to better relationships, because people can delay marriage until they find somebody who suits their needs; they’re no longer confined to marrying, you know, somebody who's in their high school graduating class, or a boy from their small town. Urbanization had the same effect a century ago, and this is an evolving process where the markets are getting larger and larger. Divorce rates are down quite a bit. It times up almost perfectly: in the UK, it starts to fall about 2003, right around the time that social networking becomes available. People aren't happy that marriage rates are falling. Some people see it as a problem that governments should be intervening in. But there's no evidence that that works in improving the quality of people's lives, and in fact there’s some evidence that it makes people worse off. So in the US, under Bush, they brought in a whole bunch of incentives, economic incentives, to encourage people who're lower income to marry. Those incentives worked, in that people did marry at higher rates, but then they often ended up divorced at the end of the day. Somebody who is married and divorced is worse off than somebody who never married. That we know. And so a program that creates financial incentives for people to marry, if people respond to that and then end up divorced, then you're actually making people worse off. The current generation of women who are single are entirely mistaken in believing that they are trailblazers. So much of the narrative is shaped by women who are economically empowered, and that's, I think, driven a large amount of the social change.

Carrie: Right.

Marina: But social change may benefit those women, that might be, you know, the optimal arrangement for them, that's what’s efficient for them. But it's not necessarily optimal for everyone, and many, many women who are in the lower socio-economic groups would probably be better off living in households that had two incomes. You know, two people earning minimum wage is much better, economically, than one person who’s earning minimum wage. But that social change, with the increasing importance of love in marriage, is pervasive across societies. The prospects for sex robots changing marriage I think are quite good. Maybe people see that as a negative thing, but I see that as a largely positive thing, because I think it'll give people more options within marriage. You could really focus on finding somebody who'd make a really fabulous father, but you’re not necessarily sexually attracted to, because then you could actually have a sex robot that satisfied those sexual needs. That sounds fanciful, but I think that people will actually make these choices. I think that it's only a matter of time before we see a larger destigmatization in terms of sex outside of marriage.

Carrie: The robots are coming for your social norms!

Marina: The robots are coming for your social norms. The same way, by the way, that the birth control pill came for your social norms.

Carrie: Yeah.

Marina: This is not the first time that we've seen technology bring about social change. This is something that everyone needs to prepare themselves for. And it’s not even just sex robots: I think that robots replacing people in the workplace will also bring about a lot of social change when it comes to personal relationships. It seems to me inevitable that we're moving towards shorter work weeks and more leisure time, and when that happens, I think the types of marriages people have will be different as well. And we should see women demanding more equality in terms of contribution of their partners to household responsibilities. Wouldn’t that be nice? When the technology improves and becomes less stigmatized, the price could come down. You could end up seeing, like, a sex robot being the same price as a smart phone.

Carrie: Many thanks to today's guest, Marina Adshade. You can find out more about Marina at her website, and on Twitter, where she is @marinaadshade. This episode has featured music by Lee Rosevere, and Sandro Marinoni & Stefano Roncarolo with Roberto Padovan. As always, for more information and links, you can check out the show notes: they’re available from my website, which is And you can find me on Twitter, where I'm @carriejenkins. Thank you so much for listening.

Marina: Just so we're all clear, there are no sex robots right now.


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