An Economic Analysis of Marriage – Part 1

The Cost of the Risk of Material Loss in Divorce

Marriage is often discouraged in the Manopshere, and a single male, choosing whether I want to marry or stay an eternal bachelor is something important. Now, there’re a lot of reasons provided for why to avoid marriage, but the risk and consequences of divorce are easily the most convincing argument. So, I’m going to create a series on the economics of marriage.

This first post will be the economic cost of the risk of divorce for the average bachelor considering marriage.

At another time, I will attempt an economic analysis of the immaterial losses of divorce and the benefits of marriage. Then I will combine it all together in a cost benefit analysis.

What are the odds of divorce?

The “50% of marriages end in divorce” statistic is thrown out a lot, but this number includes those with multiple marriages and divorces, which skews the number higher than for people considering their first marriage, among other problems.

So, according to the US Census Bureau, for men, only about 60% of men reach their 25th anniversary for their first marriage (p. 11), which means about 40% of men did not.

Now, the data is by age cohort, and those married earlier had a greater chance of reaching any particular marriage anniversary milestone. For example, those married in 1975-79 had a 54.4% chance of reaching 25th anniversary, while those in the married in 1960-65 had a 66.9% of reaching this milestone. But, those married in 1975-79 had the worst chances of attaining any particular marriage milestone; they were peak divorce you might say. Since then, younger marriage cohorts have been more likely to reach milestones.

Meanwhile, in Canada, Statistics Canada has it that about 40% of first marriages will end in divorce.

So, we will estimate there is a 40% chance that a male entering their first marriage will divorce.

(Remember, the chances of marriage ending in divorce can vary depending on a wide range of variables, which I am not going to calculate at this time, but I might go into them in-depth in the future.)

How much does the divorce process cost?

The cost of the actual divorce process varies considerably, depending on a wide range of variables. A simple divorce will run about $1000, while a contested divorce can run from about $8,000-$133,000.

According to this, the median cost for mediation is $5,000, while the average contested divorce costs about $20,000.

So, we’ll say your divorce process will be about $20,000.

(Here’s a calculator if you’d like to play around).

What about Spousal/Child Support?

Your chances of paying spousal support depend on the amount of child support already paid and your income. There’s a ton of laws on this, so I’ll just use this calculator to calculate this.

The average Canadian household income is: $74,700
Two-earners without children: $79,700
Two-earners with children: $85,600
One-earner without children: $58,100
One-earner with children: $60,900

The average length of marriage is 14.5 years, with the average age of divorce for men being 44 and for women, 41.

So, putting the average divorce and income in the calculator we can get the average cost of support (both child and spousal) payments come divorce (in Ontario):

For your own income and planned family situation input the number in the calculator.

So, the average male will have to pay about $149,436 in support if sole provider, $73,458 in support if primary provider, and $0 in support if equal provider. (The cost of child support is there for illustrative purposes, but that would be the cost of having a child, not marriage and divorce.)

One interesting thing to notice: if you’re the sole breadwinner, your likely monthly payments can actually decrease as mandated child support payments replace spousal support payments. I would not bank too much on this, as it’s likely just a quirk in Canadian law or the calculator and may not apply broadly.

US law does not seem radically different overall from Canadian law.

What about a Settlement?

In Canada, “the spouse with the higher net family property is required by law to pay his” spouse “half of the difference between the two spouses’ net family properties.” Net family properties being current assets minus both liabilities and assets at marriage.

In the US, there are two systems, community property and equitable distribution, depending on the state with variations in how they are distributed. The former divides assets gained during the marriage equally, but leaves property attained before marriage alone. Equitable distribution distributes property equitably (not necessarily equally).

In general, we can say that the property you acquired during the marriage will be split more or less in half. If the wife was the primary housekeeper, while the husband was the primary breadwinner, then the difference will be the wife’s payments for continued support of the house. If they both shared provider status roughly equally, then an equal distribution of marital resources should occur.

There does not seem to be much economic cost to the average husband at the point of settlement in Canada, unless he sunk significant sums into the marital home prior to marriage and the wife did not match these sums after entering the marriage.

In the US, one could economically lose if the equitable distribution was not necessarily equal, or by quirks of local law, but for the average divorce, these would not present much of a cost. There might be extreme cases in both systems where quirks or abuses of the law could lead to unequal distribution either way, but

Other Cost Considerations

This is not to say that this will not increase economic hardship. Having to pay the expenses for two dwellings will, by itself, greatly increase economic hardship on both ex-spouses. For the ex-husband specifically though, the extra cost of two dwellings would be accounted for in the spousal/child support payments taken from his income.

It is possible a divorce could affect a male’s job performance, and thus his earnings, creating additional economic cost, but this would be outside my ability to remotely calculate.

The Total Material Cost of Divorce Risk for the Man Considering Marriage

Our formula:
Costs of Divorce Risk = Risk of Divorce * (Cost of divorce process + cost of support)

Average Male Single Earner
40%*(20,000 + 149,436 ) = $67774.40

Average Male Primary Provider
40%*(20,000 + 73,458) = $37383.2

Equal Male and Female Provision
40%*(20,000 ) = $8,000

For the average male who’s considering marriage and planning to be the sole breadwinner of the family, the material cost of the risk of divorce would be just over a full year’s worth of pay. For the average male who plans to be the primary but not sole breadwinner, it would be somewhat less than a full year’s pay. For the average male who plans a marriage where both partners earn equally, it would be a few months’ worth of pay.

So, if you plan on marrying and being the sole or primary breadwinner, you would have to ask yourself if you would pay roughly a year’s salary to be married.

* This analysis will be done for Canada. Canada’s divorce laws are generally nationally coherent, with federal laws and. The US’ divorce laws differ widely between states, so I can’t really calculate for the US. On the other hand, for the majority of men, the analysis shouldn’t vary too significantly.

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8 responses to “An Economic Analysis of Marriage – Part 1

  • Dr. Adalbert Lallier

    Dear “Free Northerner”, Having just discovered your liberal frequent use of the term’subject/concept “Sexonomics”, I feel obliged to point out that it happens to be my (officially sanctioned, USA and Canada) trademark (as well as the copyright of my original and innovate treatise “The Golden Triangle: Sexuality, Money, Power – Sexonomics”,,1987) and available on the internet, http://www.sexonomics.com. May I invite you to visit my website and download (Can$15) my text, in order to learn what “Sexonomics” is really about. If you proceed to do it, I will grant you a post facto permission to continue using my Trademark (free of charge).
    With my fondest regards, Dr, Adalbert Lallier

  • Free Northerner

    Thank you for pointing this out. I have checked out your trademark and it was only registered as of 2011.

    In addition, it is “the field of a new science to teach people how to maximize their sexual life while emphasizing material and financial well-being.”
    http://www.trademarkia.com/sexonomics-85067637.html

    My use of the term has nothing to do with a new science; it is simply the application of economics to sexual relations. A very cursory google search reveals it has been used that way on the internet since at least as early as 2007, four years prior to your registration of the term. It has been used in multiple published works including multiple book and multiple research papers, including one dated as early as 1990, 21 years prior to your trademark.
    http://www.american.com/archive/2007/july-0707/sexonomics-from-asymmetric-information-to-positive-externalities
    https://catalogue.lse.ac.uk/Record/123682

    Given this, I doubt I am infringing on your trademark and believe I am well within fair use of what is a very simple and almost self-creating portmanteau by any reasonable legal standard. In fact, from the google search it seems that you are a patent troll trying to abuse copyright law to take ownership of this commonly used portmanteau.

    I would recommend you seek after a new hobby.

  • Financial Analysis of Sex: Relationship vs. Marriage « Free Northerner

    […] also add in the 40% chance of $37,383 loss due to divorce (assuming the man will be the primary, but not sole […]

  • Dr. Adalbert Lallier

    Responding to your comment, may I point out that “Sexonomics” was officially registered in Canada as my trademark in 1989, and that it was renewed in 2009, with an additional registration in the United States. The first entry of “Sexonomics” as a word/concept on the internet had been in 1987, when my treatise “The Golden Triangle: Sexuality, Money, Power – Sexonomics” was completed. My entire text was placed on tdhe internet early in 2001. Perhaps you should make a better effort at checking things for accuracy before you go on with personal insults (“… you are a patent troll…”, and “I would recommend that yo seek a new hobby”). You may also wish to know that several “distinguished” academics have been in touch with me since the early 1990s (e.g. Dr. Paul Seabright, who was recently accorded my permission for his publisher to use “Sexonomics” as the title of the French translation of one of his books on historical linkages between women and men, has acknowledged, on his personal website, my original and pathbreaking work, as well as both my trademark and my copyright). As a basically peaceful and presumably honest individual – typical of most Canadians -, perhaps you should have asked yourself, where the expression/concept “Sexonomics” had suddenly come from starting to shoot down a seasoned and well-intentioned fellow Canadian.
    Why did I I decide to initiate sexonomics? Because I had deemed our society mature enough to shed the ages-old prejudices concerning human sexual behaviour, with particular emphasis on the oppression of women. As you’ve stated, “…multiple books and multiple research papers… ” as well as multiple hits on my website … prooves to me, that the numerous readers of my treatise have amply demonstrated exactly that level of maturity. “Portmanteau? Well, yes, because even you are carrying it (with my personal thanks for disseminating it).
    With my friendliest greetings, and stll smiling … Adalbert Lallier

  • Dr. Adalbert Lallier

    Well, my dear “Free Northerner” – how about having the courage to utter
    “mea culpa”? Adalbert Lallier

  • Free Northerner

    You are right in that I should not have been so hostile right off.

    As for the term itself, I have/had no idea where it came from. I came up with it independently, used it, then later decided to check if others had used it before, because I might want to turn my series into a book at some point in the future, although at that point it will probably not use the term sexonomics, because the project scope has changed since i first wrote about it.

  • Dr. Adalbert Lallier

    Dear Free Northerner, Your “mea culpa” is highly appreciated. In return, you may wish to know that my treatise will soon be published, adding the official dimension to what interested persons have so far been only able to download from my website (www.sexonomics.com). I have the distinct feelings, given the multiple academic interest, that “sexonomics” will eventually be regarded as the “fifth social science”. In this sense, If you wish, you may – assuming that your are a fellow Canadian – continue using my trademark as a reference. Wishing you the very best with the book project. Sincerely, Adalbert Lallier

  • Repost: An Economic Analysis of Divorce | Free Northerner

    […] don’t have time this week, so this is a repost of an early post of mine that didn’t get much play. I did a little editing. It’s part of the Sexonomics series […]

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