Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis



Second Department


Reader 1

Aaron Matz

Reader 2

Kerry Odell

Rights Information

© 2014 Ingrid C. Van Valkenburg


Money factors into the lives of all of Jane Austen’s heroines and, in many of her novels, the heroines struggle on the marriage market. Austen concludes every one of her novels with the marriage of the heroine and, while Austen made the choice to become a writer instead of marrying, she is consequently very mindful of what marriage means for each of her heroines and who they ultimately choose for a husband. Given that economics is the social science concerned with how individuals and institutions make optimal choices under conditions of scarcity, knowledge of some of the basic concepts in economics and an understanding of the economic theory behind how people make choices can enhance readings of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Through a survey of some of the existing economic literature on marriage, I demonstrate how one might apply economic theory to these two novels. Subsequently, I explore how there are limits on how far the economics of marriage can be extended to analyze Austen’s novels, but ultimately conclude that the theory presented nevertheless helps explain how many of the characters choose their future partner.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.