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Happiness: before and after the kids

Author

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  • Mikko Myrskylä

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)

  • Rachel Margolis

Abstract

Understanding how the process of childbearing influences parental well-being has great potential to explain variation in fertility. However, most research on fertility and happiness uses cross-sectional data, hindering causal conclusions. We study trajectories of parental happiness before and after the birth of a child using British and German panel data and methods which control for unobserved parental characteristics. We find that happiness increases prior to and in the year of having a child and decreases thereafter, but not below before-child levels. This general pattern is modified by sociodemographic characteristics. Those who become parents at young ages have a downward happiness trajectory, while those becoming parents at older ages have a higher happiness level after the birth. The first child tends to increase happiness a lot, the second much less, and the third may decrease happiness. Socioeconomic resources are important for men, as those with low education gain little in happiness from the birth of a child. Women experience stronger pre-birth highs and post-birth drops than men. These results, which are similar in Britain and Germany, suggest that childbearing increases parental happiness most among those who postpone and have more resources. This recipe for happiness is highly consistent with the fertility behavior that emerged during the second demographic transition and provides new insights into the causes behind low and late fertility.

Suggested Citation

  • Mikko Myrskylä & Rachel Margolis, 2012. "Happiness: before and after the kids," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2012-013, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:wpaper:wp-2012-013
    DOI: 10.4054/MPIDR-WP-2012-013
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Øystein Kravdal, 2014. "The Estimation of Fertility Effects on Happiness: Even More Difficult than Usually Acknowledged," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 30(3), pages 263-290, August.
    2. Pedersen, Peder J. & Schmidt, Torben Dall, 2014. "Life Events and Subjective Well-being: The Case of Having Children," IZA Discussion Papers 8207, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Paul Hagstrom & Stephen Wu, 2016. "Are pregnant women happier? Racial and ethnic differences in the relationship between pregnancy and life satisfaction in the United States," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 507-527, September.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Germany; United Kingdom; fertility; mental health;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General

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