Professors Study Marriage Economics

By Annie McGrew
Staff Writer

Diamonds may be forever, but a bigger diamond doesn’t necessarily mean a longer marriage, according to study conducted by Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, both associate professors of Economics at Emory.

The results of their study indicated that spending more money on weddings and engagement rings negatively correlated with marriage duration, meaning that people who spend more on their weddings tended to have shorter marriages. The study, titled “‘A Diamond Is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship Between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration,” was published in early September and has since been featured on CNN, the Atlanta Business Chronicle and 11 Alive.

According to Mialon, he and Francis chose to do a study on the relationship between marriage expenses and marriage duration because they thought the topic would be interesting from both an economic and sociological perspective.

In the study, they surveyed over 3,000 adults in the U.S. who either are married or have been married at some point in their lives.

The questionnaire gathered details such as marriage duration, length of time dating, honeymoon, engagement ring expenses, wedding attendance, total wedding expenses and age at marriage.

Francis and Mialon argue that the wedding industry is to blame for fueling the notion that spending large amounts on the engagement ring and the wedding leads to a successful, committed marriage.

They note that, “prior to World War II, in Western countries, only 10 percent of engagement rings contained a diamond. By the end of the century, about 80 percent did [and] in 2012, total expenditures on diamond rings were roughly $7 billion in the United States.”

According to Francis and Mialon, this is because of the wedding industry’s attempt to commodify romance.

Emphasizing that the main point of their paper is purely correlational, Mialon admitted that they do have some theories on why people with more expensive weddings and pricier engagement rings tend to have shorter marriages.

It’s possible that “couples who tend to have lavish weddings are simply those couples who tend not to be the best match for each other,” Mialon wrote in an email to the Wheel.

“On the other hand, it is also possible that having an expensive wedding burdens couples financially (conditioning on their income) in a way that may later strain their marriage,” he wrote.

However, there is nothing in the study that determines causality, according to Mialon.

The study also found a correlation between marriage age and duration, which Francis wrote are positively related, meaning the older the person was when he or she got married, the longer the marriage was likely to last.

Another notable finding was that the larger differences in age and education between husbands and wives were associated with a higher risk of divorce, as was reporting that looks were important in marriage.

College sophomore Rachel Wang found the study “really interesting, but it doesn’t really surprise me,” she said.

Both Francis and Mialon wrote that they were happy that there has been a public interest in their study. For the future, Francis and Mialon plan to continue their work by investigating the relationship between engagement ring expenses and the length of time of these engagements.

— By Annie McGrew, Staff Writer

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