Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

You Can't Be Happier Than Your Wife: Happiness Gaps and Divorce

Contents:

Author Info

  • Cahit Guven
  • Claudia Senik
  • Holger Stichnoth

Abstract

This paper asks whether the gap in subjective happiness between spouses matters per se, i.e. whether it predicts divorce. We use three panel databases to explore this question. Controlling for the level of life satisfaction of spouses, we find that a higher satisfaction gap, even in the first year of marriage, increases the likelihood of a future separation. We interpret this as the effect of comparisons of well-being between spouses, i.e. aversion to unequal sharing of wellbeing inside couples. To our knowledge, this effect has never been taken into account by existing economic models of the household. The relation between happiness gaps and divorce may be due to the fact that couples which are unable to transfer utility are more at risk than others. It may also be the case that assortative mating in terms of happiness baseline-level reduces the risk of separation. However, we show that assortative mating is not the end of the story. First, our results hold in fixed-effects estimates that take away the effect of the initial quality of the match between spouses: fixed-effects estimates suggest that a widening of the happiness gap over time raises the risk of separation. Second, we uncover an asymmetry in the effect of happiness gaps: couples are more likely to break-up when the difference in life satisfaction is unfavourable to the wife. The information available in the Australian survey reveals that divorces are indeed predominantly initiated by women, and importantly, by women who are unhappier than their husband. Hence, happiness gaps seem to matter to spouses, not only because they reflect a mismatch in terms of baseline happiness, but because they matter as such.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.346299.de/diw_sp0261.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) in its series SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research with number 261.

as in new window
Length: 41 p.
Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp261

Contact details of provider:
Postal: Mohrenstraße 58, D-10117 Berlin
Phone: xx49-30-89789-671
Fax: xx49-30-89789-109
Email:
Web page: http://www.diw.de/en/soep
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords: Divorce; happiness; comparisons; panel; households; marriage;

Other versions of this item:

Find related papers by JEL classification:

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

References

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
as in new window
  1. Allen, Douglas W, 1992. "Marriage and Divorce: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 679-85, June.
  2. Wilson, Chris M & Oswald, Andrew J, 2005. "How Does Marriage Affect Physical and Psychological Health? A Survey of the Longitudinal Evidence," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 728, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  3. Rafael Di Tella & Robert J. MacCulloch & Andrew J. Oswald, 2003. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 809-827, November.
  4. Gardner, Jonathan & Oswald, Andrew J., 2005. "Do Divorcing Couples Become Happier By Breaking Up?," IZA Discussion Papers 1788, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2003. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," NBER Working Papers 10175, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
  7. Adrian Bruhin & Rainer Winkelmann, 2007. "Happiness Functions with Preference Interdependence and Heterogeneity: The Case of Altruism within the Family," SOI - Working Papers 0702, Socioeconomic Institute - University of Zurich, revised Feb 2008.
  8. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2002. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 402-435, June.
  9. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Marriage: Part II," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(2), pages S11-S26, Part II, .
  10. Melanie Davern & Robert Cummins & Mark Stokes, 2007. "Subjective Wellbeing as an Affective-Cognitive Construct," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 8(4), pages 429-449, December.
  11. Evelyn Lehrer & Carmel Chiswick, 1993. "Religion as a determinant of marital stability," Demography, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 385-404, August.
  12. Claudia Senik, 2009. "Income Distribution and Subjective Happiness: A Survey," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 96, OECD Publishing.
  13. Lehrer, Evelyn L, 1996. "Religion as a Determinant of Marital Fertility," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 173-96, May.
  14. Michael J. Brien & Lee A. Lillard & Steven Stern, 2006. "Cohabitation, Marriage, And Divorce In A Model Of Match Quality," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 47(2), pages 451-494, 05.
  15. Chiappori, Pierre-Andre, 1988. "Rational Household Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(1), pages 63-90, January.
  16. Stutzer, Alois & Frey, Bruno S., 2006. "Does marriage make people happy, or do happy people get married?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 326-347, April.
  17. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "On the Relevance of the New Economics of the Family," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(2), pages 317-19, May.
  18. Wolfgang Frimmel & Martin Halla & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2009. "Assortative Mating and Divorce: Evidence from Austrian Register Data," Economics working papers 2009-10, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  19. Niko Matouschek & Imran Rasul, 2008. "The Economics of the Marriage Contract: Theories and Evidence," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(1), pages 59-110, 02.
  20. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Melvin Stephens, 2004. "Job Displacement, Disability, and Divorce," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 489-522, April.
  21. Alberto Alesina & Paola Giuliano, 2007. "The Power of the Family," NBER Working Papers 13051, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Imran Rasul, 2006. "Marriage Markets and Divorce Laws," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 30-69, April.
  23. Ulrich Schimmack & Richard Lucas, 2006. "Marriage Matters: Spousal Similarity in Life Satisfaction," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 623, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  24. Chiappori, P.A., 1989. "Collective Labour Supply and Welfare," DELTA Working Papers 89-07, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  25. Kornelius Kraft & Stefanie Neimann, 2009. "Effect of Labor Division between Wife and Husband on the Risk of Divorce: Evidence from German Data," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 223, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  26. Weiss, Yoram & Willis, Robert J, 1997. "Match Quality, New Information, and Marital Dissolution," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages S293-329, January.
  27. Simon Clark, 2004. "Law, Property, and Marital Dissolution," ESE Discussion Papers 32, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  28. Yuanreng Hu & Noreen Goldman, 1990. "Mortality Differentials by Marital Status: An International Comparison," Demography, Springer, vol. 27(2), pages 233-250, May.
  29. Anke C. Zimmermann & Richard A. Easterlin, 2006. "Happily Ever After? Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Happiness in Germany," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 32(3), pages 511-528.
  30. Ulrich Schimmack & Richard Lucas, 2007. "Marriage Matters: Spousal Similarity in Life Satisfaction," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 127(1), pages 105-111.
  31. Senik, Claudia, 2009. "Direct evidence on income comparisons and their welfare effects," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 408-424, October.
  32. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2009. "The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 190-225, August.
  33. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger, 2006. "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
  34. Freeman, Richard B, 1978. "Job Satisfaction as an Economic Variable," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 135-41, May.
  35. Paul Contoyannis & Andrea M Jones, . "Socioeconomic Status, Health and Lifestyle," Discussion Papers 01/19, Department of Economics, University of York.
  36. E. Clark & Claudia Senik, 2011. "Is Happiness Different From Flourishing? Cross-Country Evidence from the ESS," Revue d'économie politique, Dalloz, vol. 121(1), pages 17-34.
  37. Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2009. "I can't smile without you: Spousal correlation in life satisfaction," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 675-689, August.
  38. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "A Theory of Marriage," NBER Chapters, in: Economics of the Family: Marriage, Children, and Human Capital, pages 299-351 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  39. Oswald, Andrew & Jonathan Gardner, 2003. "Is it Money or Marriage that Keeps People Alive?," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2003 161, Royal Economic Society.
  40. Sueyoshi, Glenn T, 1995. "A Class of Binary Response Models for Grouped Duration Data," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(4), pages 411-31, Oct.-Dec..
  41. Peter Thompson, 2008. "Desperate Housewives? Communication Difficulties and the Dynamics of Marital (un)Happiness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(532), pages 1640-1669, October.
  42. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2007. "Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 27-52, Spring.
  43. Clark, Andrew E., 2001. "What really matters in a job? Hedonic measurement using quit data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 223-242, May.
  44. Kahneman, Daniel & Wakker, Peter P & Sarin, Rakesh, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-405, May.
  45. Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2004. "Testing for Utility Interdependence in Marriage: Evidence from Panel Data," Labor and Demography 0403037, EconWPA, revised 01 Apr 2004.
  46. Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2006. "Some Uses of Happiness Data in Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 25-46, Winter.
  47. Becker, Gary S, 1981. "Altruism in the Family and Selfishness in the Market Place," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 48(189), pages 1-15, February.
  48. Becker, Gary S & Landes, Elisabeth M & Michael, Robert T, 1977. "An Economic Analysis of Marital Instability," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(6), pages 1141-87, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

Citations

Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Divorce and the happiness gap
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2010-02-17 15:41:00
  2. Se o marido for mais feliz do que a esposa, é divórcio quase certo
    by Thiago Perin in Ciência Maluca on 2010-05-21 17:46:21
Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Bruce Headey & Ruud Muffels & Gert Wagner, 2014. "Parents Transmit Happiness Along with Associated Values and Behaviors to Their Children: A Lifelong Happiness Dividend?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 116(3), pages 909-933, May.
  2. Vladimir Otrachshenko & Olga Popova, 2012. "Life (Dis)satisfaction and the Decision to Migrate: Evidence from Central and Eastern Europe," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp460, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economic Institute, Prague.
  3. Susanne Elsas, 2013. "Pooling and Sharing Income within Households: A Satisfaction Approach," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 587, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  4. Ruud Muffels & Bruce Headey, 2011. "Capabilities and Choices: Do They Make Sen'se for Understanding Objective and Subjective Well-Being? An Empirical Test of Sen's Capability Framework on German and British Panel Data," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 385, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  5. Krauss, Alexander & Graham, Carol, 2013. "Subjective wellbeing in Colombia : some insights on vulnerability, job security, and relative incomes," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6672, The World Bank.
  6. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Kawaguchi, Daiji & Lee, Jungmin, 2014. "Does Labor Legislation Benefit Workers? Well-Being after an Hours Reduction," IZA Discussion Papers 8077, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00564985 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Becchetti, Leonardo & Massari, Riccardo & Naticchioni, Paolo, 2013. "The Drivers of Happiness Inequality: Suggestions for Promoting Social Cohesion," IZA Discussion Papers 7153, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell, 2013. "Happiness economics," SERIEs, Spanish Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 35-60, March.
  10. de Moura, Mauricio Jose Serpa Barros & da Silveira Bueno, Rodrigo De Losso, 2013. "Land title program in Brazil: Are there any changes to happiness?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 196-203.
  11. Matthias Fahn & Ray Rees, 2011. "Household Relational Contracts for Marriage, Fertility and Divorce," CESifo Working Paper Series 3655, CESifo Group Munich.

Lists

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:
  1. Economic Logic blog

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp261. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Bibliothek).

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.