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Monday, April 5, 2010

Calculations for the Perfect Spouse

While various statistics are bandied about related to one's risk of divorce, most of us can agree that chances are almost even that following marriage, divorce is a likely outcome. Just in time for April Fool's Day 2010, the European Journal of Operational Research has provided us with a mathematical model whereby societally, we can minimize said likelihood: Optimizing the marriage market: an application of the linear assignment model. (vol. 202, issue 2, 16 April 2010, pgs 547-553).
The study looked at almost 1100 couples aged 19 (!) to 75 years and examined which factors were most important to a long and happy relationship. (I'm still wondering, for the record, how a 19 year old could have a long marriage?) First of all, the researchers concluded that wives should be about five years younger than their spouses. A shared heritage was also important. It was preferable that women were at least 27% more intelligent than their men, and that she held a degree while he did not.

No surprise here: if you're planning to marry someone who's already been divorced, your odds are greater that your union too, will end in divorce. This factor is mitigated somewhat if both partners have been previously divorced. Now here's what the authors suggest for these Swiss citizens: reallocation of 7 of 10 spouses to a more mathematically optimized spouse based on the factors identified.

How about it? Would you be willing to give up your spouse for a state-identified partner with an eye toward preserving societal stability through long term marriages? Hmmmm. I bet that would be a tough sell even in forward-thinking Switzerland.

Other studies we cover in this week's podcast include the myth of knuckle-cracking and arthritis (crack away!), in Arthritis and Rheumatism, vol.41(5),May 1998, pgs.949-950, the safety of parachutes in the British Medical Journal, and placebos, extra-strength placebos and generic placebos in the Journal of Irreproducible Results. Laugh out loud, and until next week, y'all live well.

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