Workaholism and marital estrangement: A rational-choice perspective

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Workaholism is an addiction to work. It is a major source of marital estrangement and breakdown as well as a severe threat to physical and psychological health. While addiction to harmful goods has gained considerable attention in the economic literature, addiction to work, with one recent exception, has totally escaped economists' notice, despite the growing concern with its devastating consequences. The present paper makes a second step in applying economic reasoning to this problem, developing a dynamic model of rational workaholism. The model demonstrates that it is not necessary for work to be addictive per se in order to exhibit an addictive pattern throughout which work intensity monotonically increases with time. Marital estrangement alone may inflame the desire for work, which in turn further exacerbates estrangement. The model determines the optimal intensity of work and quality of marriage for the workaholic over time, showing that even a happily married, forward-looking individual might be swept into an addictive course of excessive work that leads to marital breakdown.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-108
Number of pages5
JournalMathematical Social Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Marital breakdown
  • Marital capital
  • Marital estrangement
  • Optimal control
  • Rational addiction
  • Workaholism


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