Eric D. Widmer

Gauthier J.-A., Nguyen V.C., Sapin M., Fragnière E., Widmer E.D. (2011), Modelling the Human factor of Marriage Market Dynamics through Operations Management Techniques : A case study involving Sociological and Psychological Attributes. Journal of Marketing and Operation Management Research. Vol. 1, n°1, pp. 81-102.

What are the actual attributes of men and women that lead to the optimal couple matching? In fact, many research findings already enable researchers to assess the probability that a given couple will divorce or not over the life course. Typically, sociological as well as psychological variables (e.g. respectively level of education and mental health) significantly affect the longevity of unions. However, such type of assessment is complex as it should also take into account the combination of these factors. To address this issue, we have developed an optimization model that minimizes the number of divorces in a given society. We assume a theoretical model which states that a central agency knows exactly the characteristics of all potential mates and is in the position to decide how to match them. We have thus solved a Mixed Integer Program based on the linear assignment model to match two equal groups of men and women. Based on a representative and longitudinal sample of 1074 cohabitating and married couples in Switzerland, we estimate various objective functions corresponding to age, education, religious affiliation and devotion, ethnicity, depression, and previous divorce experience based on all possible pairs of men and women belonging to the sample. Results show that the current state of marriages or partnerships is well below the social optimum. Of course this provocative stance does not support the idea that optimizing marriage is indeed possible or desirable. Instead, it shows that operations management techniques usually employed for solving production problems can also be used to better understand this crucial issue of social sciences.

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