IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

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

  • 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)

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.

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

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/

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. 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.
  2. Imran Rasul, 2006. "Marriage Markets and Divorce Laws," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 30-69, April.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

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.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.