Sunday, February 27, 2011

Albuquerque Journal Adds NY-Written Column; NY Times Comes to NM for Expertise

The Albuquerque Journal today added a new column on the economics of marriage, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal copy inserted into the Albuquerque newspaper’s Sunday “Money” section. This is good. But the writer is a woman who lives outside New York City. At least one or two elements in her family’s life won’t apply to those of us in New Mexico.
The New York Times came here for its relationship economic expert recently. The Times featured Allen Parkman, a mostly retired economics professor at the University of New Mexico’s Anderson Schools of Management, in a February 12 pre-Valentine’s article headlined, “When Love Outgrows Gifts on Valentine’s Day.”
The article appeared in Ron Lieber’s “Your Money” column. Lieber says, “What I did discover, however, was that many of us were probably taking the wrong approach to quantifying our generosity in the first place. Long-term relationships do not survive without gifts, to be sure. But they are not the gifts you may think.
“Allen M. Parkman has been married 37 years, though his parents divorced in 1944, when he was just 4 years old. Figuring out why marriages fail has driven part of his research as an economist and (now emeritus) professor of management at the University of New Mexico.
“His 2004 article in the journal Economic Inquiry, “The Importance of Gifts in Marriage,” went a long way toward cracking the code (Parkman) says. It began by noting, as other researchers had, that unlike people in his parents’ generation, those marrying more recently were seeking increases in psychological welfare in addition to material gains. To his mind, many gains come from gifts, which he defined as an offering where you incur a cost but receive no direct or immediate benefit.
“This makes a lot of sense. After all, there is a display of plumage that goes on during many courtships, a wooing based in part on establishing one’s credentials as an exceedingly generous soul. A lot of disposable income goes toward this sort of thing. The De Beers people seized on the metric in a brilliant and insidious way, suggesting that no price was too high for an engagement ring — simply pile up two months’ worth of salary.
“But this is only half the story, Mr. Parkman says. Many gifts are of the psychological and intangible sort. They range from simple empathy, affection and a catch-all category called “understanding,” to complex actions like sacrificing your career so your family can move to a city where a spouse or partner has a new and better job.
“This is a useful construct during tough economic times. Worrying about the gift-giving ritual is a high-class problem, after all. But if you count yourselves among the working (or nonworking) class and can’t afford to buy many gifts, it sure seems as if there are still plenty of gifts you can give.”
Parkman suspects that Lieber found him as the result of a conversation a year ago with another Times reporter. That earlier interview didn’t make the paper.
Parkman’s 2007 book “Smart Marriage” applies economic principles to marriage. In his professor emeritus status, Parkman teaches a bit; plays tennis, basketball and golf; views Lobo games of teams good and bad (even football); and works on more books.

1 comment:

Regina said...

Cute story. We could use more education on the non-monetary sort of gift giving. Refreshing to remember the best gifts that can be given cannot be purchased.