The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

2 August 2004

One on one

You know, those boring old monogamists may have been onto something.

Really. "Money, Sex and Happiness: An Empirical Study" [it will cost you $5 to read the whole thing] is a National Bureau of Economic Research study by David G. Blanchflower (Dartmouth) and Andrew J. Oswald (Warwick). The idea: to link the common happiness survey to information on sexual behavior.

The following executive summary, sort of, appears in The Atlantic (September, "Primary Sources"):

Married people have considerably more sex than swinging singles and gay divorcees, and the "happiness-maximizing" number of sexual partners in a given year is almost exactly one. Rising wealth has no positive effect on the frequency of sex, and increased education actually has a slightly negative effect, particularly among men. (This is unfortunate news for the well-educated, since they are the group for whom sexual activity has the highest impact on happiness.)

Did I mention I quit school after ten years? :)

To expand on that "almost exactly one" business, from the actual paper:

How many sexual partners in the last year will maximize a person's happiness? Although persuasive cause-and-effect is clearly difficult to establish in cross-section data, the simple answer according to these GSS data is one sexual partner. In this sense, our work has conservative implications. After some experimentation, we report this monogamy result, in Table 3, simply as the variable 'single partner'.

Table 4 looks in more detail at the type of sexual partner. We find, for instance, that people who say they have ever paid for sex are considerably less happy than others. Those who have ever had sex outside their marriage also report notably low happiness scores.

[Preceding paragraphs © 2004 by David G. Blanchflower and Andrew J. Oswald.]

"GSS" refers to the General Social Survey of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

I learned two things from this report:

(1) My instincts aren't entirely unsound, after all;

(2) Seventeen cents a page for downloaded material apparently doesn't faze me.

Posted at 5:52 PM to Table for One


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I certainly am glad that my husband has an advanced education! I'll leave it at that and let your imagination wonder. (Wonder not wander).

Posted by: Babs at 7:13 PM on 2 August 2004

I think I've read some stuff like this before somewhere...

Posted by: Juliette at 2:26 PM on 4 August 2004