Would you move to the US today?

by neo

teen girl squadNeo is popular with the ladies (well, at least for a few minutes in every party before reality Mrs. Neo intervenes), but there is a notable exception. One of Mrs. Neo’s friends, “Sneha”, hates Neo almost as much as she hated her boyfriend at the time.

The hatred erupted after an especially long whining session discussion revolving around Sneha’s relationship. Neo finally broke his silence despite Mrs. Neo’s “please-don’t-say-anything” look and suggested that Sneha approach her relationship using that most basic of economic principles – sunken costs.


Neo suggested that Sneha should ignore her past efforts to improve their relationship, such as feigning vegetarianism and a love for Carnatic classical music. She should also ignore the fact that in return for her culinary and auditory sacrifices, said hapless boyfriend had barely scratched the surface of Sneha’s desires (e.g. a normal romantic dinner without aggressively reiterating (in English of course) Tamil’s supremacy as the world’s oldest, finest and most mellifluous language).

Instead, Neo suggested that the only thing that Sneha should consider is the expected return on her future investments in the relationship. And that with all due respect to a certain Mr. Obama, hope was not a strategy.

At that point, Sneha decided to channel her inner Heisenberg, and behave as if her issues would not exist if Neo hadn’t point them out – ergo, hatred for Neo. Sneha wanted to believe that the relationship would reward Sneha for all the hard work she had put into it.

Sneha had fallen prey to the gambler’s fallacy – the hope that sustaining large losses in the recent past somehow, all by itself, increases the probability of profits in the immediate future.

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So – the excellent 10 years, or the bad 2 years (or both) you’ve had in the US thus far should not be material in deciding whether you should stay on in the US. The more important question is – given all that you know about the US and the other countries that compete for your residency, would you choose the US again today ?

Furthermore, if you did decide to move to India, hated it and decided to move back – the only real cost to consider would be the opportunity cost of not living in the US for the period you were in India. (Young, attractive women like Sneha run huge opportunity costs by sticking with loser boyfriends).

Of course, not all decisions in life need to be approached with sound economic theory. Sneha could have (but notably didn’t) shut Neo up by invoking that terrible clause that has kept great women in terrible relationships since the time of (and including) Sita:  “I don’t care what he does, I still love him, and I’m staying”.

Instead Sneha realized that her relationship was very much an investment that she wanted good (emotional) returns on. And, like Bohr’s horseshoe, economic theory works even if you don’t believe in it.

Soon after, Sneha dumped her boyfriend. Mrs. Neo reports that any of the three men who are now courting (a much fitter-looking) Sneha would be better than the loser she was with earlier.

(Neo still remains hated.)

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