Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login

You can't be happier than your wife. Happiness Gaps and Divorce

Contents:

Author Info

  • Cahit Guven

    (Deakin University - Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research)

  • Claudia Senik

    (PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - CNRS : UMR8545 - École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) - École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC) - École normale supérieure [ENS] - Paris, EEP-PSE - Ecole d'Économie de Paris - Paris School of Economics - Ecole d'Économie de Paris, UP4 - Université Paris 4, Paris-Sorbonne - Université Paris IV - Paris Sorbonne - Ministère de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Holger Stichnoth

    (EEP-PSE - Ecole d'Économie de Paris - Paris School of Economics - Ecole d'Économie de Paris, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung - ZEW)

Abstract

This paper asks whether a gap in spouses' subjective happiness matters per se, i.e. whether it predicts divorce. We use three large panel surveys to explore this question. Controlling for the life satisfaction levels of spouses, we find that a larger happiness gap, even in the first year of marriage, increases the likelihood of a future separation. This association even holds for couples where both spouses are identified as being better off than in their outside option. We interpret this observation as reflecting a concern for relative utility. To the best of our knowledge, this effect has not been taken into account by any existing economic models of the household. The relationship between happiness gaps and divorce is consistent with the fact that couples who are unable to transfer utility are more at risk than others. It is also possible that assortative mating by happiness baseline level reduces the risk of separation. However, assortative mating cannot entirely explain the finding, as a widening of the happiness gap over time increases the risk of separation. We also uncover an asymmetry in the effect of happiness gaps: couples are more likely to break-up when the difference in life satisfaction is unfavorable to the woman. De facto, divorces appear to be initiated predominantly by women who are less happy than their husband. This asymmetry suggests that the effect of happiness gaps is grounded on motives of relative deprivation, rather than on a preference for equal happiness. The presence of this new argument in spouses' utility is likely to modify their optimal behavior, e.g. in terms of labor supply. It should also be taken into account for public policy measures concerning gender-based labor incentives.

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://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/55/54/27/PDF/wp201101.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by HAL in its series PSE Working Papers with number halshs-00555427.

as in new window
Length:
Date of creation: Jan 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-00555427

Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: http://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00555427
Contact details of provider:
Web page: http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/

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. 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.
  2. Alois Stutzer & Bruno S. Frey, . "Does Marriage Make People Happy, Or Do Happy People Get Married?," IEW - Working Papers 143, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. Chiappori, Pierre-Andre, 1988. "Rational Household Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(1), pages 63-90, January.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2004. "Testing for Utility Interdependence in Marriage: Evidence from Panel Data," Labor and Demography 0403037, EconWPA, revised 01 Apr 2004.
  7. Chiappori, Pierre-Andre, 1992. "Collective Labor Supply and Welfare," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 437-67, June.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Peter Thompson, 2005. "Desperate Housewives? Communication Difficulties and the Dynamics of Marital (un)Happiness," Working Papers 0515, Florida International University, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2006.
  12. Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert J. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 615, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  13. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2006. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(1), pages 267-288, 02.
  14. 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).
  15. Richard B. Freeman, 1978. "Job Satisfaction as an Economic Variable," NBER Working Papers 0225, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Jonathan Gardner & Andrew J. Oswald, 2006. "Do divorcing couples become happier by breaking up?," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 169(2), pages 319-336.
  17. Wolfgang Frimmel & Martin Halla & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2013. "Assortative mating and divorce: evidence from Austrian register data," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 176(4), pages 907-929, October.
  18. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2007. "Marriage and divorce: changes and their driving forces," Working Paper Series 2007-03, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  19. Paul Contoyannis & Andrea M Jones, . "Socioeconomic Status, Health and Lifestyle," Discussion Papers 01/19, Department of Economics, University of York.
  20. 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.
  21. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2009. "The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness," IZA Discussion Papers 4200, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. Evelyn Lehrer, 1996. "Religion as a determinant of marital fertility," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 173-196, June.
  25. 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.
  26. Allen, Douglas W, 1992. "Marriage and Divorce: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 679-85, June.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
  29. Yoram Weiss & Robert J. Willis, . "Match Quality, New Information and Marital Dissolution," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 95-13, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  30. Alberto Alesina & Paola Giuliano, 2010. "The power of the family," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 93-125, June.
  31. Clark, Andrew E. & Frijters, Paul & Shields, Michael A., 2007. "Relative Income, Happiness and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," IZA Discussion Papers 2840, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  32. 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.
  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. N Powdthavee, 2008. "I Can’t Smile Without You: Spousal Correlation in Life Satisfaction," Discussion Papers 08/16, Department of Economics, University of York.
  35. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Melvin Stephens Jr., 2001. "Job Displacement, Disability, and Divorce," NBER Working Papers 8578, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  36. 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.
  37. 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, .
  38. Simon Clark, 2004. "Law, Property, and Marital Dissolution," ESE Discussion Papers 32, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  39. 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.
  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. Imran Rasul, 2006. "Marriage Markets and Divorce Laws," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 30-69, April.
  42. Oswald, Andrew & Jonathan Gardner, 2003. "Is it Money or Marriage that Keeps People Alive?," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2003 161, Royal Economic Society.
  43. 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.
  44. Yuanreng Hu & Noreen Goldman, 1990. "Mortality Differentials by Marital Status: An International Comparison," Demography, Springer, vol. 27(2), pages 233-250, May.
  45. Evelyn Lehrer & Carmel Chiswick, 1993. "Religion as a determinant of marital stability," Demography, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 385-404, August.
  46. Claudia Senik, 2009. "Income Distribution and Subjective Happiness: A Survey," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 96, OECD Publishing.
  47. 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.
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. 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.
  2. Headey, Bruce & Muffels, Ruud & Wagner, Gert G., 2012. "Parents Transmit Happiness along with Associated Values and Behaviors to Their Children: A Lifelong Happiness Dividend?," IZA Discussion Papers 6944, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Leonardo Becchetti & Riccardo Massari & Paolo Naticchioni, 2011. "The drivers of happiness inequality: Suggestions for promoting social cohesion," Working Papers 2011-06, Universita' di Cassino, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche.
  4. Vladimir Otrachshenko & Olga Popova, 2012. "Life (Dis)satisfaction and the Decision to Migrate: Evidence from Central and Eastern Europe," FEUNL Working Paper Series wp570, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Economia.
  5. 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).
  6. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell, 2013. "Happiness economics," SERIEs, Spanish Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 35-60, March.
  7. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00564985 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Ruud Muffels & Bruce Headey, 2013. "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," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 110(3), pages 1159-1185, February.
  9. 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).
  10. Matthias Fahn & Ray Rees, 2011. "Household Relational Contracts for Marriage, Fertility and Divorce," CESifo Working Paper Series 3655, CESifo Group Munich.
  11. 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.

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:hal:psewpa:halshs-00555427. 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: (CCSD).

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.