Swedish Crown Princess Victoria had the epitome of a fairytale wedding  last Saturday.  After watching clips of such an extravagant, breathtaking ceremony, it’s difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that marriage is really a romanticized business transaction. The vows aren’t only a declaration of everlasting love; they are also an enduring verbal contract.

Why would anyone walk down the aisle for any reason besides attaining a life of happily ever? Economics shows us that there are reasons beyond love that justify getting hitched.  Marriage is fundamentally a kind of market in itself, involving a series of transactions between two producers–the husband and the wife. In the marriage framework, profits come in various forms depending on the values prioritized by the couple. Economists, including Greg Duncan, have found that these are often “children, prestige and esteem, health, altruism…and pleasure of the senses“.

Happiness is the number one profit goal of married couples and this is what they strive to produce the most of.   Duncan points out that the production of happiness is more efficient in a married couple, as opposed to a single person trying to produce happiness of his or her own. The reason for this greater efficiency lies in the concept of specialization. With specialization, each spouse takes on responsibilities that make the most sense for the couple.  In this manner, the spouses “trade” amongst themselves in attempts to increase their partners’, and their own, level of satisfaction.

The traditional model of household specialization can be seen when the husband is the one providing whilst the wife raises the kids. Within this example, the beau specializes in earning an income, while the belle specializes in homemaking. However, that is not to say that this is the best/only way to specialize! Specialization varies with each person, and each couple, based on their individual needs and capacities.

It isn’t just the ability of couples to use this comparative advantage/specialization that makes marriage beneficiary. There’s also the simple reality that two people sharing expenses tend to be better off than one person living on their own.     

To all the hopeless romantics out there:  this more statistical analysis isn’t meant to diminish the sentimental factor of a marriage. You should still look forward to commencing your own lifetime of feeling (and being treated!) like a princess.