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Spousonomics
Cover of Spousonomics
Spousonomics
Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes
Borrow Borrow
Are you happy in your marriage—except for those weekly spats over who empties the dishwasher more often? Not a single complaint—unless you count the fact that you haven't had sex since the Bush administration? Prepared to be there in sickness and in health—so long as it doesn't mean compromising? Be honest: Ever lay awake thinking how much more fun married life used to be?

If you're a member of the human race, then the answer is probably "yes" to all of the above. Marriage is a mysterious, often irrational business. Making it work till death do you part—or just till the end of the week—isn't always easy. And no one ever handed you a user's manual.
Until now. With Spousonomics, Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson offer something new: a clear-eyed, rational route to demystifying your disagreements and improving your relationship. The key, they propose, is to think like an economist.
That's right: an economist.
Economics is the study of resource allocation, after all. How do we—as partners in a society, a business, or a marriage—spend our limited time, money, and energy? And how do we allocate these resources most efficiently? Spousonomics answers these questions by taking classic economic concepts and applying them to the domestic front. For example:

  • Arguing all night isn't a sign of a communication breakdown; you're just extremely loss-averse—and by refusing to give an inch, you're risking even greater losses.
  • Stay late at the office, or come home for dinner? Be honest about your mother-in-law, or keep your mouth shut and smile? Let the cost-benefit analysis make the call.
  • Getting your spouse to clean the gutters isn't a matter of nagging or guilt-tripping; it's a question of finding the right incentives.
  • Being "too busy" to exercise or forgetting your anniversary (again): your overtaxed memory and hectic schedule aren't to blame—moral hazard is.
  • And when it comes to having more sex: merely a question of supply and demand!

    Spousonomics cuts through the noise of emotions, egos, and tired relationship clichés. Here, at last, is a smart, funny, refreshingly realistic, and deeply researched book that brings us one giant leap closer to solving the age-old riddle of a happy, healthy marriage.
    From the Hardcover edition.
  • Are you happy in your marriage—except for those weekly spats over who empties the dishwasher more often? Not a single complaint—unless you count the fact that you haven't had sex since the Bush administration? Prepared to be there in sickness and in health—so long as it doesn't mean compromising? Be honest: Ever lay awake thinking how much more fun married life used to be?

    If you're a member of the human race, then the answer is probably "yes" to all of the above. Marriage is a mysterious, often irrational business. Making it work till death do you part—or just till the end of the week—isn't always easy. And no one ever handed you a user's manual.
    Until now. With Spousonomics, Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson offer something new: a clear-eyed, rational route to demystifying your disagreements and improving your relationship. The key, they propose, is to think like an economist.
    That's right: an economist.
    Economics is the study of resource allocation, after all. How do we—as partners in a society, a business, or a marriage—spend our limited time, money, and energy? And how do we allocate these resources most efficiently? Spousonomics answers these questions by taking classic economic concepts and applying them to the domestic front. For example:

  • Arguing all night isn't a sign of a communication breakdown; you're just extremely loss-averse—and by refusing to give an inch, you're risking even greater losses.
  • Stay late at the office, or come home for dinner? Be honest about your mother-in-law, or keep your mouth shut and smile? Let the cost-benefit analysis make the call.
  • Getting your spouse to clean the gutters isn't a matter of nagging or guilt-tripping; it's a question of finding the right incentives.
  • Being "too busy" to exercise or forgetting your anniversary (again): your overtaxed memory and hectic schedule aren't to blame—moral hazard is.
  • And when it comes to having more sex: merely a question of supply and demand!

    Spousonomics cuts through the noise of emotions, egos, and tired relationship clichés. Here, at last, is a smart, funny, refreshingly realistic, and deeply researched book that brings us one giant leap closer to solving the age-old riddle of a happy, healthy marriage.
    From the Hardcover edition.
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    • From the book

      1

      Division of Labor

      Or, Why You Should Do the Dishes

      The Principle, Part One

      Who should do what?

      It's one of the first questions Fortune 500 companies, governments, and gas stations have to answer if they plan on getting anything accomplished.

      Consider your local Hess station. It wouldn't exist without the truck drivers who delivered the concrete that was then poured and shaped into a foundation by a team of construction workers-not to be confused with the other team of construction workers who built the quickie mart, which is now staffed by a cashier in a green vest who sells the Ho Hos that were brought by the Hostess man with the "FBI: Female Body Inspector" T-shirt. There's the guy who fills the underground tanks with gas, and the guy who pumps that gas into your car. Don't forget the crane operator who lifts the number changer high up to the glowing Hess sign to swap out the number 7 next to "Premium" for a number 8 so that when you drive up, you can decide whether you want to spend $3.08 for a gallon of top-notch petroleum.

      Every person has his or her job to do in order to create the final product: a functioning-and, if Hess is lucky, a prosperous-gas station. The fuel-pumping guy can't drop his hose and start delivering fuel, just as the number changer can't operate the crane without risking tearing a giant hole in the roof of the quickie mart, where the cashier sits, printing out lotto tickets and offering customers directions to the nearest IHOP.

      This is what's called "division of labor," and it's what makes economies function.

      Take a look around you. Every piece of furniture in your house, the boneless chicken breasts you eat for dinner, the car you drive, and the clothes on your back-they all owe their existence to a division of labor. Even the book you have in your hands right now came into being thanks to loggers, ink makers, printing press operators, glue producers, art directors, nagging editors, gifted writers, guys in suits who sign checks, and a group of deep-pocketed German publishers who pay the salaries of the suit-wearing check signers. There's no way those gifted writers could fell a tree or pay anyone's salary, much less their own. And maybe the ink makers could one day learn the art of glue producing, but it wouldn't happen overnight, and the glue quality would probably never be the same, and?.?.?.?well, you get the idea.

      That businesses thrive when employees have specialized tasks is hardly a novel idea. It probably dates back to the cavemen, when certain hunters were prized for their good aim and others were aces at skinning and filleting bison. But in more recent times, the concept is often credited to Adam Smith, the father of modern economics.

      In 1776, Smith published his now seminal work, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Among the many insights that to this day form the basis of economic theory, Smith argued that the secret to a nation's wealth wasn't money, but labor, and specifically, a division of labor based on specialization.

      To prove his point, he used the example of a pin factory, saying that many more pins could be made in a day if each of eighteen specialized pin-making tasks was assigned to specific workers, rather than each worker making an entire pin from start to finish. Ten workers, he said, could produce forty-eight thousand pins a day if they specialized, versus perhaps just ten pins without specialization: "One man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head." And so on.

      Seems evident now, at a time when many of us take...

    About the Author-
    • Paula Szuchman is a page-one editor at The Wall Street Journal, where she was previously a reporter covering the travel industry, college internships, and roller coasters. She lives with her husband and daughter in Brooklyn, N.Y.

      Jenny Anderson is a New York Times reporter who spent years covering Wall Street and won a Gerald Loeb Award for her coverage of Merrill Lynch. She currently writes on education and lives with her husband and daughter in Manhattan.
    Reviews-
    • Lisa Bonos, The Washington Post "Comparing marriage to a business doesn't sound very romantic. But in Spousonomics, journalists Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson make a convincing and creative case for how the dismal science can help reconcile marital disputes. Applying economic research to anecdotes from couples around the country, Szuchman and Anderson draw on concepts such as the division of labor and game theory to help readers determine who should mow the lawn or how to persuade a homebody spouse to join you at the movies. Just as technology has made it easier for countries to be flexible in the global economy, the authors propose, so has the redefining of gender roles allowed spouses to become more adaptable partners."
    • Shane Watson, The Sunday Times "Apply economic principles to marriage and you will be happier is the message --and the more you think about it, the more it makes perfect sense.... Thinking of your marriage not as a love affair that is slowly getting buried under layers of family responsibilities, but as a start-up business that is adding skills by the day, makes everything look completely different. Rosy, even. And pretty sexy. Try it."
    • Annie Lowrey, Slate.com "Just in time for Valentine's, two journalists, Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson, have endeavored to show you the way. In their book Spousonomics--complete with a big heart with a pie chart in it on the cover--they promise to teach you how to use economics 'to master love, marriage, and dirty dishes.' The book starts with two basic premises. First, relationships exist in a world with scarce resources: time, money, humor, patience, breakfast cereal. Second, the field of economics has a lot to say about worlds with scarce resources. Szuchman and Anderson describe 10 big economic principles and many more small ones to recognize or apply at home in service of a better relationship. 'By thinking like an economist, you can have a marriage that not only takes less work, but that feels like a vacation from work,' the book promises."
    • Jenna McCarthy, iVillage "Spousonomics pretty much nailed it. Authors Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson, journalists from The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, respectively, propose treating your marital union the same way you'd treat any other business: As an operation that can only succeed if its limited resources are effectively allocated....What I love most about Spousonomics: The authors are funny, smart and relatable--and the advice isn't just designed to make both parties happy, it's also simple enough to work. Even if your marriage isn't operating in the (emotional) red, consider this book a great investment."
    • Sierra Black, Babble.com "It's funny, smart and breaks down complex ideas about economics and relationships into easy-to-digest anecdotes about who does the dishes and how often married folks get laid. These are authors who are unafraid to drop an F-bomb and can also tackle big words like 'intertemporal' without breaking a sweat. The basic premise of Spousonomics is that we can apply economy theory to our marriages, and make them better in the process. They promise readers improved marriages with more sex, less strife and smoother handling of everything from bills to bedtime routines. Sounds impressive, right? It is. The authors interviewed dozens of married couples, as well as experts in economics and relationships. They know what they're talking about."
    • Tess Vigeland, Marketplace "Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson say if you only treated your marriage like the business partnership that it is, many of those issues just might solve themselves. It's behavioral finance for the bedroom and beyond. And it is both helpful and hilarious."
    • James Pressley, Bloomberg "The book is grounded in solid research, makes economics entertaining, and might just save a marriage or two."
    • Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed "Spousonomics is one of the most delightful, clever, and helpful books about marriage I've ever seen."
    • Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project "Practical, compelling, and hilarious, Spousonomics highlights economics-based s
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    Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes
    Paula Szuchman
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