According to the study entitled, “The Socio and Demography of Happiness,” researcher Sam Peltzman from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business found that marriage continues to be a very important marker for happiness – by a landslide.
Peltzman found that the married population is over 30 points happier than the unmarried, a number that has hardly changed since the 1970s, and is the same for both men and women.
Meanwhile, the mean happiness for the unmarried hovers near zero for the same time period.
“So the happiness landslide comes entirely from the married,” Peltzman concluded. “Low happiness characterizes all types of nonmarried. No subsequent population categorization will yield so large a difference in happiness across so many people.”
Commenting on the study in this article appearing on UnHerd, sociologists W. Bradford Wilcox and David Bass point out that happiness has declined since the turn of the millennium, as has the number of couples choosing to marry. This points to points to Peltzman’s conclusion that the “recent decline in the married share of adults can explain (statistically) most of the recent decline in overall happiness”.
Wilcox and Bass also note that this decline has been concentrated mostly among less educated, lower-income Americans. Other research corroborates this finding, such as that of psychologist and author Dr. Jean Twenge whose analysis of the General Social Survey found a similar correlation between the decline in marriage among the working-class and poor Americans and their levels of happiness.
“The bottom line is that the United States is increasingly riven when it comes to happiness between the haves and have-nots, in large part because record numbers of less privileged Americans are not succeeding at getting, not to mention remaining, married,” Wilcox and Bass write.
“To fix what ails America, we need to renew marriage and familial ties, especially in poor and working-class communities where the fabric of family life is weakest,” they suggest. “A big step forward would be to eliminate marriage penalties that keep too many parents from exchanging vows.”
These include tax and safety-net benefits over the last six decades that too frequently punish marriage, especially for the working class and poor. Programs such as Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit too often penalize couples with kids if they marry.
“The Government must stop making marriage a bad financial bet for lower-income families,” the write. “It’s well past time we acknowledged that helping American men and women build meaningful and satisfying lives for themselves and their children requires a renewed emphasis on the importance of marriage. This should not be dependent on where they sit across the class divide.”
Americans who are married with children are now leading happier and more prosperous lives, on average, than the single and the childless.
“Is that statement surprising? In an age that prizes individualism, ‘workism’, and a host of other self-centric ‘isms’ above marriage and family, it may well be. But the reality is that nothing currently predicts happiness in life better than a good marriage.”
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