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Are you willing to take risks in life or you rather prefer to play safe? Your preference might have an effect on when you’ll decide to get married.

The Role of Risking in Life and Marriage

Spivey’s interesting study shows that people who prefer not to take risks in life often decide to marry sooner.

  • “Finding an ‘‘acceptable’’ mate is easier than finding the ‘‘perfect’’ mate. The risk-averse searcher may be willing to accept one of the first options that comes along. That’s because waiting for a potentially better option is not worth the uncertainty” (p.501).
  • “For example, if both spouses work and one faces an unemployment spell, one income remains to support the couple in the interim. The shorter the time to marriage, the sooner the risk-averse individual can insure themselves against exogenous income shocks. However, the higher the quality (a function of income) of a potential spouse, the greater the insurance provided against exogenous income shocks” (p. 502).
  • “Risk aversion should also have some bearing on whom an individual marries, not only when they marry” (p. 511).
  • “…Search theory predicts that the more risk-averse will marry the more risk-averse at an earlier age, while the risk-lovers will be more likely to marry each other later in life” (p. 514).

How Do Women See Riskiness in Men?

  • “Wilke et al. (2006) find that women’s perceived riskiness of activities in various domains is negatively correlated with the attractiveness of men participating in them” (p. 513).
  • “Extremely intelligent and successful women may have a harder time finding partners because ‘‘men want somebody intelligent enough so that they can recognize the man’s brilliance, but not necessarily enough to challenge them—or so smart that they find someone else more interesting’’ (Klein 2006, 60). This could be related to why very risk-averse men in the current study marry women with the lower quality compared to more risk-loving men, who may be willing to take a chance with the intelligent women” (p. 513).

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Spivey, C. (2010). Desperation or Desire? The Role of Risk Aversion in Marriage. Economic Inquiry, 48(2), 499-516.

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