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The economics of marriage



Professor Kirk Doran presents on the joy of faithful marriage

Professor of Economics Kirk Doran revealed the underlying interrelation of marriage and economics in a lecture entitled, “Marriage, Children, and Happiness.” Delivered as part of White Ribbon Against Pornography Week (WRAP) organized by Students for Child Oriented Policy (SCOP), his talk focused on how extraordinarily beneficial marriage is to human happiness through the use of economic studies.

Doran stepped away from White Ribbon Against Pornography’s emphasis on the harms of pornography to focus on marriage as a positive alternative to pornography. Doran explained marriage has the exact opposite effect on a person’s life than the detrimental effects produced by a self-centered pornographic lifestyle.

The economic studies Doran cited utilized variables that measured a person’s level of happiness. He explained that there is one variable which is able to successfully predict human happiness. The variable is marriage. “Marriage is the most powerful correlate I have ever seen in any of the regressions in any of the statistical studies I’ve ever seen in my life,” Doran said, “and I’ve seen a lot of powerful variables.” He was intentional in stating that this correlation does not apply to every type of marriage, but specifically to faithful monogamous marriages between two individuals who are best friends.

Doran presented additional evidence from the economic studies that monogamous, faithful marriage is incredibly powerful at improving a person’s life. A cutting-edge study that has yet to be released compared cooperation in monogamous households to cooperation in polygamous households by means of a public goods game. According to the study, there are greater amounts of altruism in monogamous households than polygamous households, and greater amounts of strategized reciprocity over altruism in polygamous households. Another study demonstrated that the future success of children can be predicted based on the number of two-parent households within an extended community.

Professor Doran provided a personal reflection by a woman named Julia Shaw who was married at an early age. Shaw reflected that when she and her husband were married, they became a separate family unit and even purchased their own health insurance, Netflix account, and cell phone plan. Professor Doran emphasized that marriage jumpstarts one’s own independence: “Marriage isn’t something you do after you’ve grown up, marriage is something that helps you keep growing up, after you’ve already started.”

Doran called attention to the common fear today of having children, saying that we are afraid that “part of us is going to die” when we have a new child or welcome any new person into our lives.  “And you are right, it does. The part of you that it kills is the independent, proud, selfish part of you that doesn’t want to make sacrifices for others.” According to Doran, something else grows in its place: the ability to love those who are superior to us in their innocence. Thus having children is not something to fear, but rather something contributes to our flourishing as human persons.

Doran’s lecture was a reminder, in the midst of a campus full of people striving for ambition in their careers, that family life is beautiful and important, and that this truth is so powerful it is even reflected in economics.

Therese Benz is a senior English major who has been passionate about both Lord of the Rings and guinea pigs for many years now. If you share either (or both!) of these passions, you can contact her about it at tbenz@nd.edu

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