Financial Equivalents of Life Events

Willingness to pay to prevent traumatic life events is “the relevant standard” for measuring the hurt they inflict upon a person.

This is according to Robin Hanson, responding to comments in an earlier article of his (previously) where he suggested that as cuckoldry “is a bigger reproductive harm than rape, so we should expect a similar intensity of inherited emotions about it. If 2+% of women were raped and we had a reliable cheap way to identify the guilty party, don’t you think we’d require that?”

Many were offended by Hanson’s comparison of the hurt a man has inflicted on him through cuckoldry to the hurt inflicted on a rape victim, so he notes that, according to the aforementioned relevant standard, men seem to hurt more in some situations (divorce, death of a spouse/child, etc.) than women (original article by Paul Frijters), so why not in this situation?

What’s a marriage worth? To an Aussie male, about $32,000. That’s the lump sum Professor Paul Frijters says the man would need to receive out of the blue to make him as happy as his marriage will over his lifetime. An Aussie woman would need much less, about $16,000.  But when it comes to divorce, the Aussie male will be so devastated it would be as if he had lost $110,000. An Aussie woman would be less traumatised, feeling as if she had lost only $9000. […]  The lifetime boost to happiness that flows from a birth – for the mother around $8700, for the father $32,600. […]  The death of a spouse or child causes a woman $130,900 worth of grief. […] It costs a man $627,300.

Note(s): It is not clear whether the gender pay gap is taken into consideration in the above calculations.
It’s also worth noting that if one were to put a financial value on cuckoldry and rape, cuckoldry’s more obvious financial implications (raising another man’s child) must be taken into account (i.e. subtracting it, at least in part, from the figure).
In this context cuckoldry refers to non-paternity events, rather than just unfaithfulness. With this in mind, I agree with Robin Hanson: “I’d prefer to be raped rather than cuckolded”.



2 responses to “Financial Equivalents of Life Events”

  1. The error here is fairly straightforward:
    Access to the body is the factor not included. Cuckoldry involves the switching of another’s progeny for your own, and the trauma of your wife’s deception.

    Rape involves the switching of another person’s progeny for your partners, the trauma of being victimized (and society’s desire to normalize and cover up the crimes) AND the access to your body.

    Let’s use gold:
    Someone comes into your house while you’re away and steals some gold coins. It takes hours to file an insurance claim and you don’t get the full value.
    Cost = [Value difference] + [time for claim * rate] + [emotional disturbance of robbery]


    You get tied down to a dentists’ chair. A fellow shows up and uses a pair of pliers to yank out a few of your more valuable fillings. Getting new fillings takes hours, and insurance doesn’t repay you the full value.

    So there’s an equal, or generally equal, dollar value cost. There’s a time cost which might be equal, but both have emotional costs [and it is, by the way, disgusting to equate the emotional pain of your wife cheating on you with that of a physical assault] that it seems hard to equal or even of similar scale.

    Finally, it’s your body being damaged in the second case. You’re sitting there with a mouthful of blood, the cost is not just the gold that’s missing from your mouth!

  2. I am by no way advocating a comparison between unfaithfulness to me and a sexual assault on another person, or even drawing one myself (and, by the way, nor has Robin Hanson). How could one draw such a comparison, anyway, as you say?

    That is not the point in question.

    The discussion here uses a (frankly quite graphic) comparison to ask the question of why such cheap and reliable paternity tests are not carried out, and to raise the question of whether or not it is possible to compare these two events (no matter how different) when they happen to different sexes.

    Is it this statement that Robin made (and that I agree with) that you take issue with: “I’d prefer to be raped rather than cuckolded”?

    If so, there are two points you have missed.

    — Cuckoldry here does not refer to simple unfaithfulness. It refers to non-paternity events: the raising of another man’s child as your own through fraud. That’s a drastically different event.

    — We’re in no instance comparing the hurt inflicted on a man through cuckoldry to the harm inflicted upon a rape victim and at no point does the piece suggest that men hurt more through cuckoldry than women do through rape. Instead, this is an internal valuation of the two situations related to me (and Robin) personally. It is merely a thought experiment. There are many others who agree, and many others who would disagree. If you believe such a comparison is impossible, that’s a third answer to the question, not the answer, right?