Relationship advice columns are strangely silent on how to hook up with attractive economists. That might be because smoking social scientists are few and far between. Or, more likely, it could be because their language of love is beyond the reach of the average dating guru. After all, who among us hasn’t offered to buy an economist a drink, only to be barraged with strange questions about whether your interaction will be repeated or one-shot? Never fear – your resident economist-relationship expert is here.
The first step is to hint that you are interested without scaring them off back to their copy of “The Road to Serfdom”. “I reckon you could raise my utility” should do the job. Economists measure satisfaction in “utils”, or units of happiness. If they are looking a bit glum, it may be because they are pining after someone who has rejected them. Hey, it could be that they weren’t your first choice either. In that case, say “I think we’ll be a stable match”. Even if you weren’t each other’s first choice, you’ll stick together because no one you prefer will match with you. It might not sound romantic, but let’s face it, you haven’t got any better options.
If those lines did the trick, it could be time for some love poetry. How about: “Roses are red, violets are blue, would it be a Pareto improvement, if I kissed you?” A Pareto improvement is something that makes everyone at least as well off as they were before: a bunch of flowers bought for £5 is a Pareto improvement if the florist wants the £5 more than the flowers, and I want the flowers more than I want the £5. If the economist suggests that you pay them to kiss you then do not proceed.
Having snagged your economist, step two is to wow their friends with some insightful comments on the topics of the day. This is easier than you think. A good ice-breaker is: “what even is Trumponomics anyway?” This will get everyone so incensed that you will not have to contribute much to the conversation. If you are asked, say things like “hitting growth of 3% seems unrealistic” or “renegotiating a trade deal won’t return jobs that were really lost to robots.” If asked to expand, roll your eyes dramatically and say that you refuse to dignify Trump’s economic theories with an explanation. (Alternatively, you could always subscribe to The Economist.)
If the conversation takes a pessimistic turn – economists are a dismal bunch – try chiming in with “I just don’t understand why productivity hasn’t risen!” The more frustrated you sound when you say this, the better. Economists are obsessed with the productivity puzzle, or why countries like America and Britain don’t seem to be getting better at producing stuff at the same pace as they were a few decades ago. The answer is probably a bit of everything (measuring growth of the digital economy is hard; newer inventions might be less transformative than, say, the toilet). That means it’s safe to raise a quizzical eyebrow if someone offers an overly assured explanation.
When the relationship has progressed to the stage where you feel comfortable showing your vulnerable side, try something like: “Chinese debt levels are keeping me awake at night.” (Chinese debt is a pretty big deal at the moment: to keep the Chinese economy going, the government has pumped it full of cheap loans, which many fear can’t be paid back.) Just try not to yawn too much when they over-confidently explain the best way to fix the problem.
Once things start getting serious, broach the subject of moving in together with a reference to economies of scale. After all, two people don’t need twice as much heating as one. It may be harder to persuade a female economist: she is probably aware of evidence that women in two-person households tend to do more housework than those living alone. Coupled-up men do more work around the house too, but in the form of DIY rather than the more tedious sort.
When convincing one’s economist boyfriend to propose, it is wise to remind him that getting married comes with a pay premium of up to 11% an hour. Economists reckon that employers see a wedding ring as a positive signal: the fact that a partner will put up with him is a strong indicator of his productivity. If he asks what’s in it for you, you could explain that marriage raises the cost of a break-up, raising barriers to exit and therefore your security. If you want, add that he’s the most amazing man you’ve ever met. Economists respect incentives more than honesty.