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Marina Adshade

Author and Educator on the Economics of Sex and Love

Economist Marina Adshade’s theories on the interplay of market forces in the matters of love and libido have brought her attention from around the globe. She is the author of The Love Market and Dollars and Sex: How Economics Influences Sex and Love. She teaches at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics.  Using engaging research and economic analysis, and no small dose of humour, Adshade unlocks the mysteries behind our actions, thoughts and preferences regarding sexual relationships, gender, love and power.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


The Love Market
It has become popular recently to apply a very basic understanding of supply and demand to markets for sex and love, one in which women are sellers and men are buyers on markets for love. The simplicity of that story may be compelling, but it’s an inaccurate description of how the actual market for sex and love operates; the real economic story is much more elegant and enlightening. Understanding these markets gives us a framework for thinking about how personal relationships are evolving over time. In fact,Marina argues that without consideration of how the markets for sex and love operate, our understanding of modern society is simply incomplete. She shows how properly interpreting love markets is key to understanding everything from the hook-up culture, to the Marriage Revolution, to the widening marriage gap, and all other modern relationship phenomena.

Sex on Campus
While it may not seem obvious, the economic perspective that sex and love are exchanged on markets can go a long way in explaining the sex lives of university students in a way that is both informative and entertaining. For example, did you know that policies that set minimum drink prices might actually be contributing to risky sexual behaviour? Or that one of the reasons why there is so much casual sex on campus today is because of the increased earning power of college-educated women? Thinking like an economist can even answer many of the questions students are asking themselves; questions like, “If I can’t even get a date in college, am I ever going to get married?” Marina leaves audiences with an understanding how sex on university campuses is influenced by factors beyond their control not only helps student negotiate those markets, but also helps them understand why they, themselves, make the choices they do.

The Bedrooms of the Nation
Back in 1967, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau famously said “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation”. Yet, whether they realize it or not, policy makers continue to make decisions that influence our sexual behaviour. They do this when they when they set policies that define marriage contracts, determine how married couples are taxed, restrict the sex trades, and determine the availability of contraceptives, just to give a few examples. Economics allows us to evaluate such government policies using evidence and theory; it allows us to strip away the morality and the politics surrounding these issues revealing the true effects of policy on our personal relationships. Marina shows how the economic approach is absolutely critical to ensuring the health and wellbeing of our citizens and can be used to evaluate a number of government policies (current and proposed) that influence our decisions around sex and love.

Modern Love is All Consuming
Historically, love has been the root of our survival as a species; it encouraged us to form productive marriages that made it possible for each generation to thrive. With the increasing independence of both men and women, however, the economic gains to marriage have diminished dramatically. The end result is that, today, love is less about economics than it has ever been in human history. Yet we continue to marry, not for our survival, but simply because marriage allows us to feel love for, and the love of, another person. Which raises the question, if the purpose of love is no longer to ensure our economic wellbeing, is modern love all consumption? The nature of love might seem like an unlikely topic for an economist, but it is useful to understand how treating love as a commodity is affecting our relationships. Marina argues that this change in perspective is likely to be very good for relationships because it is encouraging us to love consciously; to treat love as an informed decision rather than a flight of fancy

Summary Profile

Marina Adshade has spent the last fourteen years teaching economics and engaging in original economic research. In 2008, she launched an undergraduate course titled Economics of Sex and Love, which invited her students to approach questions of sex and love through an economist’s lens. The class was an immediate hit with students and, by the time the first term started, had generated international media attention.

She has a Ph.D. from Queen’s University and currently teaches economics at the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Adshade is a regular contributor to the Globe and Mail and Time Magazine and has written for the Wall Street Journal, the Sunday Times (UK), the Daily Mail (UK) and Buzzfeed. She has made numerous TV appearances on CTV and CBC, interviews on CBC Radio and National Public Radio (US), online panel discussions, international and domestic print media (including the Daily Mail, London, and Reuters) and podcasts in Canada and the US.

Dr. Adshade’s first book, Dollars and Sex: How Economics Influences Sex and Love appeared in bookstores in March 2013.