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Dollars and Sex: How Economics Influences Sex and Love Hardcover – March 19, 2013
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"Economists may seem soulless, unlikely guides to affairs of the heart. But "Dollars and Sex," a delightful book by Marina Adshade, an economist at the University of British Columbia, may convince you otherwise." - The New York Times
"The pleasure of reading Dollars and Sex, in other words, is that Adshade doesn't have and agenda to push, nor any Gladwellian "Aha!" moments to neatly package. The book is a clever collection of small conversation-ready revelations packaged in an accessible way." - Canadian Business Magazine
"In Dollars and Sex, Adshade uses everything from prostitution to online dating to demonstrate how economics work in practice. The result is a book that is both provocative, and informative." - Winnipeg Free Press
"This is, in effect, the Moneyball of Booty; removing all the romance with math, the author compiles her own research and that of other notable economists to skillfully tackle coupling, casual and otherwise. She applies a number of standard economics 101 rationales, making readers question every tryst and romp they've ever engaged in. The book is also helpfully humorous and charming, neatly organized into three easy to understand "acts," representing a different phase of our development, with stories told via hard data and very human anecdotes." - Stacey May Fowler, The National Post
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This book was laid out well, and guided the reader through many different scenarios and that ran through the overall course of life, and stopping to study different situations that applied at different parts of life.
This was a great read! The only complaint that I have about the text is that side bars will pop up right in the middle of a sentence. So you have to finish a sentence or paragraph, and then go back to read the side bar. Not a dealbreaker in the least, but still annoying.
Economics is often called the dismal science, and one based on a presumption of 'rational actors.' For these reasons, it may seem off-putting to apply microeconomic methods to explain sexual and romantic behavior. But Professor Marina Adshade does a good job of showing us how economic thinking can help explain how and why humans choose as they do when it comes to sex and love. It is not that we ARE all rational calculators who seek to maximize utility (and isn't 'utility' a tough concept to define when it comes to romance?), but that the intuitions on which we make choices are often calibrated AS IF we are rational actors. (For more detail and argument, see Passions Within Reason: The Strategic Role of the Emotions.)
This book is based on a course that Dr. Adshade created in 2008 at the University of British Columia, out of concern that many first-year economic students are not 'turned on' by talk of interest rates and consumption functions enough to remain Econ majors for year 2. The classes's success led to a successful blog and now, to a same-titled book. Adshade organizes the book 'chronologically': from discussing how opportunity costs (the available choices we forego in making a choice) help determine how we date and 'hook up.' Next, we get into courtship and marriage (and how the latter produces a 'mutual gain from trade' and a sort of insurance policy). Last, we get into how economic thinking can explain decisions to have children and who with (or who we risk having children with out of wedlock). Last, we discuss love in the 'golden years' and the economic reasons why it is easier for men AND WOMEN to find love at older ages.
I confess to being a bit squeamish at applying certain economic assumptions to the realm of love and sex. For instance, in discussing why couples seem less likely to divorce during a recession, she essentially describes a situation where it is harder for people to walk away when the costs of doing so are higher (when they are in debt, when they owe on the house, etc). This may well be, but there may be psychic factors involved that are difficult for economists to measure, like the loyalty one feels for the person one has pledged their love to or the joy one feels in being with the other. Dr. Adshade certainly acknowledges these difficulties, but gives them short shrift. (She sort of has to when using a methodology employing ideas 'utility maximization' on a subject where what 'utility' is may vary wildly from individual to individual.)
Be that as it may, I really enjoyed this book and would readily recommend it to two groups: first, those who want a really interesting introduction to economics without the feel of a 'traditional' economics text. Here, we are introduced to such ideas as thick and thin markets, opportunity cost, equilibrium, and supply/demand shock, in a way that makes these concepts quite understandable and relatable. Next, I recommend this to folks already familiar with microeconomics, who want to see it applied in an exciting way to an unusual subject area.
Some have found the book dry. I didn't find it that way, but then again, I'm used to reading academic texts. I found Dr. Adshade to be concise, clear and, at times, witty. She interjects personal and hypothetical stories quite often to illustrate what she says and keeps econ jargon to a minimum (though a certain amount of it really is unavoidable). So, I'll say it this way: if you expect Freakonomics (co-written by an economist and a popular journalist), you'll be a bit disappointed in the prose. If you've read the popular columns of someone like Gary Becker, Milton Friedman, or Paul Krugman, you'll be able to make it easily through this book.
I couldn't give it 5 stars because for all of its amazing research and analysis it had little to any visual representation. That and I felt the author didnt take a bold position on what any of the studies seem to suggest [i.e. "these studies suggest, we're better off staying away from ..." ]