Dollars and Sex

How economics influences sex and love

Greek Economic Problem is Stickier than we Believed

Sex makes us happier and healthier, but does it make us more productive workers?

“If basic needs are not satisfied, human beings cannot function”, according to economist Nick Drydakis in a working paper that tests his hypothesis that workers who have sex more frequently are better workers and, as a result, are rewarded with higher wages.

Using Greek data he finds evidence to support this argument, but that data raises another question: If having sex frequently makes workers so productive, then why are incomes so much lower in Greece than they are in the US?

Drydakis uses data collected in a Greek survey in 2008 that asked men and women how frequently they have sex with six options for answers: never, once or twice a year, once a month, two or three times a month, weekly, two or three times a week and more than four times a week.

His empirical results suggest that moving up one category (from, say, having sex once a month to two or three times a month) increases an individual’s hourly wage by 3.2%. This result makes a compelling case for the claim that higher sexual frequency makes workers more productive – or at least higher paid.

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But, this isn’t an entirely new idea. Blanchflower and Oswald used US data in 2004 to test for a relationship between frequency of sex and income. That paper, posited that the relationship ran in the opposite direction; that having a higher income gives people the opportunity to have sex more frequently. Either way, they found no statistically significant relationship between income and sexual activity – according to their analysis there is no relationship between frequency of sex and worker productivity.

Drydakis wants to argue that Blanchflower and Oswald’s analysis is incomplete, which is fine, except that there is one problem; according to his data the Greeks are having sex far more frequently than are the Americans.

Greek men and women (apparently) have sex on average once a week while the US data suggests that American men and women are having sex only two or three times a month. But if having sex more frequently makes workers more productive, then why aren’t Greek workers more productive than American workers?

The answer to this question appears to be found in the Drydakis paper. He finds that while having more sex increases wages on average, wages are not strictly increasing in sexual activity. Increasing frequency of sex from no sex (ever) or sex once or twice a year up to sex every week increases wages by a very small amount (3.2% and 1.6%), but increasing frequency from once a month or two or three times a month actually decreased wages – by 4%!

So, if Greek workers are having sex once per week on average they could actually increase their productivity having sex less frequently – as infrequently as the Americans! 

Greek economic crisis solved!

Of course, I am not seriously suggesting there is any merit in this argument. The issue is almost certainly in the way the Greek data was collected. The US data was collected in face-to-face interviews in which people were asked how many times they have had sex in the last year. The Greek data was collected via phone interviews in which people were asked to choose one of the six categories described above. My guess is that when asked this, second, way respondents select the once-a-week category for convenience rather than for accuracy, which is why so many people indicated that was their level of sexual activity.

There’s a lot more to be said about this paper, but this is as productive as I am going to get today.

References: Blanchflower, David G., and Andrew J. Oswald. (2004) “Money, Sex, and Happiness: An Empirical Study.” Scandinavian Journal of Economics 106, no. 3 (2004): 393–415.

Drydakis, Nick (2013) “The Effect of Sexual Activity on Wages” Anglia Ruskin University, IZA and Scientific Centre for the Study of Discrimination, Athens Discussion Paper No. 7529.

Marina Adshade, Ph.D., teaches at the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia.

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