Saturday, October 17, 2015

17/10/15: ‘Dream Wedding’ Fairy Tales

Working through some papers, I just came across this now nearly classic, but still recent study that I wanted to share with you ages ago, but somehow forgot. So here it is - a brilliant example of empirical economics at its most interesting edge:

The paper evaluates “the association between wedding spending and marriage duration using data from a survey of over 3,000 ever-married persons in the United States.”

Stats informing this study objective are frightening: “In 2014, wedding industry revenues are projected to exceed $50 billion in the United States. According to a national survey conducted annually by the top wedding website, the average wedding cost was $29,858 in 2013… In 1959, Bride’s recommended that couples set aside 2 months to prepare for their wedding and published a checklist with 22 tasks for them to complete. By the 1990s, the magazine recommended 12 months of wedding preparation and published a checklist with 44 tasks to complete.” Presumably, humanity lost count of months and tasks required to execute a fairytale wedding since then. But, “in 2012, total expenditures on diamond rings were roughly $7 billion in the United States.”

But is any of this ‘happiness industry’ working? “Overall, we find little evidence that expensive weddings and the duration of marriages are positively related. On the contrary, in multivariate analysis, we find evidence that relatively high spending on the engagement ring is inversely associated with marriage duration among male respondents. Relatively high spending on the wedding is inversely associated with marriage duration among female respondents, and relatively low spending on the wedding is positively associated with duration among male and female respondents. Additionally, we find that having high wedding attendance and having a honeymoon (regardless of how much it cost) are generally positively associated with marriage duration.”

Per authors summary: “The wedding industry has consistently sought to link wedding spending with long-lasting marriages. This paper is the first to examine this relationship statistically. We find that marriage duration is either not associated or inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony.” Or in other words, you might be able to buy your way into marriage, but you are unlikely to buy your way into a happy union.

Full paper: Francis, Andrew M. and Mialon, Hugo M., ‘A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration (September 15, 2014): Note, the paper has been since published in the Economic Inquiry (Volume 53, Issue 4, pages 1919–1930, October 2015).
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