Unfortunately, I’m missing this year’s Conference on Empirical Legal Studies at Cornell. But I spent the morning skimming the program and came across the following from Ilya Beylin & Anup Malani: Finding Love in the Wreckage: Estimating Spousal Altruism with Data on Fatal Car Accidents. Here is a link to the SSRN version and here is the abstract:
This paper estimates the degree of altruism among spouses by examining how often the driver of a car sacrifices himself or herself in order to save a spouse. Holding constant the magnitude of a collision, a driver can maneuver the car to distribute the risk from a collision between the driver and a passenger. We quantify spousal altruism by the degree to which drivers riding with their spouse redistribute the risk from a fatal accident to themselves – as measured by ex post mortality – as compared to drivers not traveling with their spouse. We find that drivers with their spouses are at least 37% more likely to sacrifice themselves. This implies that they value the lives of their spouses at least 37% more than the lives of other individuals.
I would have guessed >37% (indeed, the authors find higher sacrifice rates in other specifications). The 37% figure is for husbands. It is 54% when wives are the drivers.
UPDATE: Larry Ribstein beat me to the punch with this one months ago and proposes an arguably even better title here!