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Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes [Hardcover]

Paula Szuchman , Jenny Anderson


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Book Description

Feb. 8 2011
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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (Feb. 8 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385343949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385343947
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 612 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #242,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Praise for Spousonomics

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.”--Lisa Bonos, The Washington Post
 
“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.”--Shane Watson, The Sunday Times
 
“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.”--Annie Lowrey, Slate.com
 
“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.” --Jenna McCarthy, iVillage
 
“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.”--Sierra Black, Babble.com
 
“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.”
--Tess Vigeland, Marketplace
 
"The book is grounded in solid research, makes economics entertaining, and might just save a marriage or two."--James Pressley, Bloomberg
 
Spousonomics is one of the most delightful, clever, and helpful books about marriage I’ve ever seen.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed
 
Practical, compelling, and hilarious, Spousonomics highlights economics-based strategies for couples coping with the inevitable annoyances of a relationship. How can you coax him to do chores without nagging? Or change her mind about important decisions, quit yelling at the kids, or step away from the computer? The minute I finished this book, I started to experiment on my husband.”—Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project
 
"Spousonomics is a brilliant and innovative book. And if you’re a rational consumer, you really have to buy it: A few bucks to improve your marriage? That’s just good decision making."
– A.J. Jacobs, bestselling author of The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically
 
"This book – by suggesting that people are not rational, but irrational – turns our thinking about relationships on its head. A stimulating, must read for all of us who want to better understand and improve our love lives."
– John Gottman, bestselling author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
 
"Spousonomics delivers: Two accomplished journalists master a fascinating body of research I'd been hoping to learn more about, then weave it into a narrative that's a pure pleasure to read. Bravo."
– Robert H. Frank, Professor of Economics at Cornell University, and author of The Economic Naturalist and The Winner-Take-All Society
 
 "Spousonomics lets you peer into other people's relationships, with valuable lessons for your own. A fun and breezy read for anyone who wants to be both smarter about economics and wiser about love."
– Steven Landsburg, author of The Armchair Economist and More Sex is Safer Sex
 
"Spousonomics offers couples real life, common sense solutions for some of the knottiest conflicts regularly experienced in marriage. Written with great wit and understanding, it is both very helpful and a pleasure to read. I recommend it highly."
– John. W. Jacobs, M.D., author of All You Need Is Love And Other Lies About Marriage

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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  79 reviews
51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent work, but with caveats Jan. 28 2011
By Dave Schwartz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Spousonomics is another addition to the growing popular economics literature that makes concepts like division of labor, comparative advantage, and information asymmetry digestible for a lay audience. As such, its publication is a good thing: after all, the more people know about how societies handle scarcity, the better. This book's hook is that it attempts to apply economic theory to marital relations...and, as the authors repeatedly point out, that means ALL marital relations.

With ten chapters, each focused around a single idea from economics (to the three listed above, add also loss aversion, moral hazard, and several others), the authors show the reader how, by applying lessons learned from economists, they can have a better marriage-and, as they point out more than once, more sex. Each chapter has a similar format: the authors explain the concept using both textbook phraseology (although there's blessedly little of that) and examples from real life, then present several "case studies" that show how different couples actually confront the issue the chapter illuminates.

As an introduction to economic ideas it's not bad, and it might get you thinking about how you make decisions and relate to your spouse and children in a different way. Many of the couples profiled, however, were not easy to empathize with, to put it politely; some seemed downright annoying. Also, a lot of the spouses seemed...stereotypical, with the hubby obsessed by "the game" and loafing around, and the wife doing all the housework, or with one a workaholic and the other a free spirit. In the course of researching the book, the authors talked to more than two thousand people, so this might just be what they found. Maybe most people (or most people in their sample) really are that predictable.

But the general concepts the authors highlight are all valid, and it wouldn't hurt to give their approach a try. Like all advice books, though, this one has its limits. It's easy to tell people to be dispassionate when assessing their relationships; probably a lot harder to have that Vulcan reserve when you've just been vomited on, have heard nothing but crying for two hours, and your spouse is out doing pilates/pickup basketball/reviewing books/whatever.

Overall it's an interesting book that has several great concepts; whether its a truly useful one is likely up to the reader....and his/her spouse.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two excellent books in one March 9 2011
By Man in the Middle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I very much looked forward to reading "Spousonomics", as I have degrees and interest in both economics and counseling, plus have been married over 40 years.

As expected, the book achieves two good purposes: serving as an introduction to economics while also providing sound relationship advice.

Unexpectedly (considering economics is nicknamed "the dismal science"), the book is also quite funny and often sexy.

I was surprised how much I learned, and at the relevance of the advice. It's also an easy and pleasant read.

The chapter titles illustrate the pleasures in store for readers:
Division of Labor - or, why you should do the dishes
(I particularly appreciated the explanation of comparative advantage - why it's best to share household chores, even when one spouse is better at all of them.)

Loss Aversion - or, the upside of going to bed angry
(Their 24 hour rule to see if we still feel the same tomorrow is useful in the same way as Dave Ramsey's 30 day delay rule for desired purchases, to see if we still want the same thing.)

Supply and Demand - or, how to have more sex
(It was here I finally noticed both authors are women.)

And so on for seven more delightful chapters on Moral Hazard, Incentives, Trade-offs, Asymmetric Information, Inter-temporal Choice. Bubbles, and Game Theory.

If you have any interest in either economics or improved relationships, you really can't go wrong with this excellent book.

Highly recommended.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and educational Jan. 20 2011
By Leslie Ann Lewis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
As a fan of Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics, I was very excited when I saw this book. As it turned out, this book is very much in that same vein. Using a great deal of humor and a lot of diverse examples, the authors show us how you can apply the simple rules of economics to your most significant relationship and (hopefully) improve.
The examples are fun and sometimes a little silly, but they really get your attention. After well over a decade of marriage, there are many of these situations I have personally experienced, even if they were only for a short time. We have found our own ways around some of these issues and it is interesting to me that some of them mirror what is found in the book.

I enjoy getting my facts in fun ways and having a book I can read in bits and pieces. I could pick it up and put it down at will, but I found myself coming back quickly for more and more info. If you like that sort of book, then this may be something you would also enjoy.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fluffy, silly, derivative pop psychology... Dec 22 2010
By 35-year Technology Consumer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Apparently trying to leverage the popularization of economic theory stemming from the "Freakonomics" series, Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson offer a breezy and superficial attempt to apply economics to the challenges of marriage.

Even with a modest stab at legitimate survey techniques (the only feature that elevates this review to two stars), this book fails to deliver on the solid connection it claims between economics and marriage.

Compounding the problem are the couples used as exemplars in the numerous case studies. Overall, they can be charitably described as self-absorbed (sometimes individually, but often collectively). One example: the divorced woman who turned to online dating service, and claimed more than a hundred dates in a year. Two dates a week is an aggressive agenda for anybody, and there are probably some conclusions other than economic that can be reached based on this rate of "dating".

The book contains an overemphasis on sex as a commodity in marriage, and some of the sidebar discussions about symptoms of issues in a marriage may have seemed funny or cute to the authors, but are in questionable taste.

The authors will garner some talk show face time and will no doubt be hearing them banter with morning drive-time radio hosts in several markets. Here's my economic advice: Give those those six to ten minute interludes some of your attention. You'll get everything you need from that brief exposure when this book gets hawked, and save yourself the money and time you'd invest in buying and reading it. Then, if you're married, buy your spouse a bouquet with the savings: that's a sound economic decision you won't regret.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect combination of marriage counseling and economics Feb. 26 2011
By brian d foy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
If you combine the best marriage counseling book you could imagine and the most engaging popular economics book, Spousenomics is what you get. Two veteran financial reporters apply economic theory to not only their marriage, but a test group. Instead of worrying about "feelings", they take the economic approach which turns out to be much more useful. Since economics cares more about outcomes than feelings, the advice and results are much more realistic and far less driven by changing emotion and moods.

In short, marriage is an exercise in scarce resources. Given two people living together, some space, time, and money goes into the marriage, taking those resources away from the individual. Economics, the science of the scarce resources, solves many of these problems by aligning end goals with what's available. Sometimes that means that to get a lot you have to pay a little. Giving up a little time for your spouse for something that that bores you might mean you reap much more later.

They treat marriage for what it is instead of some ideal to which we should aspire. In separate chapters they apply the economic ideas of division of labor, loss aversion, supply & demand, moral hazard, incentives, trade-offs, and bubbles to everyday marriage topics. It's not a stretch, either. This isn't some haphazard and flimsy book of allegories or cheesy analogies that push some sort of self-help fad. Each chapter deals extensively with case studies that deal with actual couples they had interviewed.

The authors didn't shy away from adult topics either. Not only do they acknowledge that sex exists, but they also treat it as a major issue in marriages. For instance, using economics, they answer questions such as "Is it worth having sex even though I'm not in the mood if it means my partner will be happier this week?". Indeed, the first line of the introduction is "Robert, a handsome thirty-eight-year old San Francisco entrepreneur, wanted to have sex last night." From there, they examine that problem.

They only time they misstep is when they move away from marriage to talk about the Cuban Missile Crisis in the Game Theory chapter. They push the fantasy that somehow Kennedy deftly defeated the Russians who were secretly building missile bases in Cuba. They forget to mention that the US had not-so-secretly already built nuclear missile bases in Italy and Turkey. Who came out better in that exchange? Kennedy removed the missile bases from Turkey (those missiles couldn't reach Russia anyway), which is what the Russians really wanted. Kennedy promised to not invade Cuba, and Castro is still in power. They make the common mistake to assert that it was Kennedy's promise not to invade that defused the situation. There's a particular lesson here that they should have picked up from their Asymmetric Information and Trade-Offs chapter.

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