Friends of the Behavioral Economics Blog, this week we present the paper “Romance and the ozone layer: panel evidence on green behavior in couples”, by Köbrich León, A. and Schobin, J. (2022), in which authors make an analysis with couples to know how the important events in their lives have affected their compromise with the environment as a couple.

It is a reality that romantic relationships are usually the center of people’s social life and, therefore, influence many aspects of our personality.

For example, previous studies on conjugal relationships identify similarities in aspects as disparate as the perception of risks, participation in the stock market or tobacco consumption. Some, even, have studied pro-environmental behavior.

However, few talk about the synchronization that happens between the members of the couple and if it is marked by important life events.

As interested in behavioral economics, we are also interested in anything that influences people’s decision-making and behavior shaping, so we are going to delve into this topic and see what authors have to tell us about it.

They mention the investment model of attachment to society. This suggests that the quality of relationships is an economic good that the couple co-produces, by aligning their behaviors in the life cycle, by socializing their preferences through daily interaction.

In addition, it predicts that the commitment that the couple has with society is the product of a reduction in the heterogeneity of preferences, because people who are highly committed to each other give up personal preferences to adapt to the interests of others.

The literature on this model shows that the strength of the commitment depends on the stage of the couple’s relationship. That is, pro-environmental behaviors will change over the course of life. Therefore, authors are on the right track when they decide to study how important events in couples’ lives affect their behavior, such as marriage or the birth of children.

Many of the pro-environmental behaviors end up becoming habits, and this is an important fact to keep in mind because important life events review habits and can establish new practices that replace them.

To explore all this, authors conducted surveys in two waves of a total of 6,349 couples, that is, 12,698 individuals.

They considered major life events (changes in marital status, pregnancy and childbirth, acquisition of real estate…) as the main variables. Beliefs about the need for action against climate change were also taken into account, in addition to socioeconomic factors, such as age, education and income.

Obtained results provide important information. For example, getting married was not found to exert a statistically significant influence on the couple’s alignment process, but the pro-environmental behavior scale scores of couples who had divorced became more similar than the ones of those who remained together.

An interesting fact is that couples who divorced but did not change their address and continued sharing their home, became more similar than couples who remained together, even if they were not married.

Regarding pregnancies and births, it shows that differences in pro-environmental behavior significantly decreased over time in couples who did not have children. For couples who did have, the opposite occurred after the baby was born.

These findings largely mirror the results of family psychology studies of changes in relationship quality and attachment during the transition to parenthood. Current literature identifies the birth of the first child as a particularly dynamic phase in the development of the couple’s division of labor and in the allocation of economic resources.

This literature suggests that most couples invest in relationship quality and attachment before delivery to buffer the decline in quality that will follow. In other words, the period of preparation for the first child is characterized by a very strong commitment to the couple. This may explain the high concordance between the pro-environmental behaviors of prenatal couples. After childbirth, divergences appear to adapt to the demands of rearing.

In short, major life events drive alignment in couples’ pro-environmental behavior, at least to some extent. The finding is consistent with previous literature, however, authors point out the need to continue investigating the subject.

If you want to know more about Behavioral Economics and how to apply it to human behavior, take a look to our Certificate in Behavioral Economics, a formative program, in English or Spanish, 100% online and certified by Heritage University (USA). Now, with discounts for members of this club.


Write A Comment

Behavioral Economics Blog