The mating reservation wage

Bryan Caplan makes an excellent point:

Female income has greatly increased, and men with low status jobs are “inferior goods” in the mating market.  As a result, the demand to date and marry such men has sharply declined.  The average guy with a low-status job is only modestly more dateable in women’s eyes than the average guy with no job at all.  Men respond by either working much harder to become “superior goods,” or saying “Why bother?” and giving up.  On this account, working class men are acting less industriously even though their preferences are no less industrious than they used to be.

People often forget that money is not the primary purpose of working. If men work and earn to attract a mate, they are interested in how much they should earn to succeed in that goal. If they have no chance of reaching that objective, they will not work. Their mating reservation wage is not reached.

I agree with Caplan. Preferences have not changed. The mating reservation wage is going up.

This has some consequences for minimum wage policy. If the mating reservation wage is going up, the minimum wage will have less effect on working decisions by men.

However, one thing about this situation perplexes me. Why are low-skilled men accepting this so quietly? Crime is still going down. There is no evidence of the social disruption that is often predicted to go with the presence of many unpaired males. Does modern society provide enough opiates for men to quietly check out?


One thought on “The mating reservation wage

  1. I’d wager a guess that both culturally and in terms of actual physical environment, there are not a lot of options now for expressing this frustration. Once we fall out of the workplace this is especially true, and people can become invisible to others for less than that. All the more reason to do something about the polarization of society that is allowing this to happen…for in the past when people did not have a valid job, they could still get around, they could still interact with others and be a part of community. The real problem for both men and women is that they need societal ways to be strong for themselves, before they can be strong for any one else.

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