Bryan Caplan  

True Love and the International Marriage Market

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Tyler asks his readers to help a 51-year-old American male find a high-quality wife in the international marriage market:

What traits should he look for in a foreign woman? He should avoid countries which lost the Cold War. Avoid women met in hotels or hotel rooms. Avoid countries which generate large amounts of spam. Hepatitis counts as a minus. How about a plus for women who work in agriculture?

I discussed this problem in general terms a while back. Despite obvious advantages, the downside of marrying internationally is that your spouse is unlikely to "love you for yourself":

[T]he fact that people don't want to be married for their money explains some puzzles about the marriage market. For one thing, it explains why people prefer to marry within their social class. If you're rich guy, you would rather marry a rich girl because you know she's not after your money...

An even bigger puzzle we can explain is why men don't exploit the INS marriage loophole far more than they do. By going to the world market, the typical American man could probably use the lure of citizenship and a First World standard of living to find a wife who is better-looking, younger, and less demanding than he could find in the States. Roll your eyes if you must!

But only an idiot wouldn't wonder "Maybe she's just marrying me for the green card and the green." And that's usually enough to overpower the palpable benefits of casting a wider net.

The real solution to Tyler's challenge, then, is to find someone who truly loves you. (Tyler's Symmetry Thesis is right, but it isn't much help, because it only works in the long-run - i.e., eventually you'll hate the gold-digger who betrays you!) And frankly, none of his proposed filters are good or even plausible detectors of true love.

What is? I propose: Appearing to enjoy a long series of conversations about most of the topics that interest you. Faking sexual attraction is pretty easy; faking interest in what someone says is really hard to do for very long. This is doubly true if it's a genuine dialogue, where both parties stick their necks out and say something.

Of course, if you're going to use this approach, you have to be yourself. Talk about your actual interests. If you love comic books, find a potential spouse who claims to likes comic books too. If she maintains her end of an animated discussion after a hundred hours of talk, she either loves you or deserves an Oscar.

Well, that's a little premature. It's a good idea to cycle through a variety of subjects, unless comic books really are your only interest. And if that's true, married life probably isn't for you, anyway.


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
Mace writes:

Careful, you're using logic with regards to the opposite sex....

areader writes:

Bryan, did you actually marry a woman who also likes comic books? That's really a hobby for young males.

anonymous writes:

>The real solution to Tyler's challenge, then, is to find someone who truly loves you.

No, thats the solution to the game of life.

>What is? I propose: Appearing to enjoy a long series of conversations about most of the topics that interest you. Faking sexual attraction is pretty easy; faking interest in what someone says is really hard to do for very long.

But you may then have only a friend. Great conversation without spice is just friendship.

James Miller writes:

Find a woman who will have your baby. Having this baby will be a strong signal of her long-term commitment to you. It will also reduce her future success in the marriage market should she leave you.

kedar writes:

Arranged marriage lasts longer. Success rate is also higher. It is a good idea to ask relatives find someone you will see only at the wedding. Love starts at the wedding and it takes time to reach the peak of love and also time to fall. So it takes time for the marginal cost to outweigh marginal benefit of marriage.

Greg writes:

"He should avoid countries which lost the Cold War." Amen.

The missus frequently rants about "capitalism ruining vital, cultured, productive ******ia". I get to work 2 jobs because she can't find dignified work in her field with a BA and two MAs.

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