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Old Money, the Nouveaux Riches and Brunhilde's Marriage Strategy

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Anne-Kathrin Bronsert, Amihai Glazer and Kai A. Konrad

Conspicuous spending in courtship may provide important information about a potential partner’s income – but it may also dissipate future family income. In a forthcoming publication, Kai Konrad, Amihai Glazer and Anne-Kathrin Bronsert show how conspicuous consumption may be induced but also curbed when it comes to marriage matching.

In the epic poem ‘The Song of the Nibelungs’ Brunhilde announces that she will only marry a suitor who wins in a fight with her. Modern courtship rules may be less violent, but courtship is still costly and these costs may hurt both the suitor and the potential bride: extensive status consumption by suitors may dissipate future family income. However, conspicuous spending in a courtship may also provide important information about a potential partner’s income or earnings potential. In a forthcoming publication, Kai Konrad, Amihai Glazer and Anne-Kathrin Bronsert show how a potential bride may induce, but at the same time curb, conspicuous spending. This strategy serves two objectives: For one thing, it allows her to find a sufficiently wealthy husband – which is in line with the resource motive guiding female mate choice as highlighted by evolutionary biologists and psychologists. For another, the potential bride rejects suitors who conspicuously spend too much, thereby avoiding a waste of resources which the married couple could make better use of, for example, when raising children.

The authors also suggest an explanation for why conspicuous spending is higher among the “new rich”. In contrast to suitors with an “old money”-background the new rich may lack visible indications of high wealth. As a consequence, the potential bride asks for a higher level of conspicuous spending to ensure that such a suitor is indeed sufficiently wealthy.

Veröffentlichung:   Journal of Population Economics, 2017, 30(1), S. 163-186.