The mating reservation wage


Jason Collins


January 19, 2012

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?