Economists in Love: Al Roth

1. People think game theory has no place in a marriage. But you told me once that marriage is a big game made up of little games, and the trick is to focus on the big one, not get tripped up by the little ones. Explain.

I don’t recall that conversation, but my answer makes me think that you must have asked me whether game theory helped me get out of doing the dishes. That doesn’t strike me as the right focus, when you’re thinking about someone with whom you’re going to be lovers and friends and parents together, and each other’s closest confidant, most unconditional ally, and most devoted historian.  Let’s just say that marriage is a dynamic game that you play over a lifetime.

2. What’s the upside of being married to an economist? The downside?

The upside? You mean, aside from the fact that we’re hot? I guess we also have job security, as long as the economy keeps generating puzzles and questions we can’t answer.

The downside? Sounds like a good research question for someone…

3. How is a marriage like a corporation? How isn’t it like one?

The reason a lot of economic activity takes place in corporations is that, for some kinds of long term or repeated interactions, it would be a pain to have to always be buying what you need on the market. It would make it hard to make plans and investments that might make production more efficient. Well, families are where we produce household goods. Children, for example. As a recent empty-nester, I can tell you that it takes a long time to produce a complete kid, and team production is the way to go. (I attach a picture of me and Emilie engaging in household production.)

4. You study matching, in which one “agent” has to be matched to another, or as you’ve said, “you can’t just choose what you want, you have to also be chosen.” This applies to markets  anything from students and colleges, to men and women. How did you know you and your wife would make a good match?

As I recall, she told me.

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One Response to Economists in Love: Al Roth

  1. The last answer is just adorable :)

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