Deja Vu All Over Again: The happiness equivalent of marriage

Nattavudh Powdthavee, a social economist at the U.K. university’s Institute of Education. publishing in the Journal of Socio-Economics, tries to quantify how much happiness health and marriage produce relative to what income increases would produce the same.  [Summary of the findings in this newspaper account.]

Freakonomics Blog reports this as though this is news.

Only problem is that Robert Putnam, in Bowling Alone, reported much the same 7 years ago (2000).  On page 333 he wrote: “Controlling for education, age, gender, marital status, income, and civic engagement, the  marginal ‘effect’ of marriage on life contentment is equivalent to moving roughly seventy percentiles up on the income hierarchy – say, from the fifteenth to the eighty-fifth percentile.  In round numbers, getting married is the ‘happiness equivalent’ of quadrupling your annual income.”

“What about education and contentment?  Education has important indirect links to happiness through increased earning power, but controlling for income (as well as age, gender, and the rest), what is the margainal correlation of education itself with life satisfaction?  In round numbers, the answer is that four additional years of education –a ttending college, for example – is the ‘happiness equivalent’ of roughly doubling your annual income.”  [Putnam goes on to analyze the happiness impact of socializing like volunteering, entertaining at home, attending church and attending club meetings.]

Powdthavee (2007): “Money buys happiness, but not a lot of it.”

Putnam (2000, Bowling Alone p. 333): “So money can buy happiness after all.  But not as much as marriage.”

Doesn’t sound so novel to me 7 years later coming from Powdthavee…


One response to “Deja Vu All Over Again: The happiness equivalent of marriage

  1. A good thing can stand to be repeated. That’s what I think. And it’s good that marriage still contributes to happiness. We’re told over and over about the troubles of marriage and about divorce rates. With the massive flow of bad press, it’s good that someone takes a closer look at marriage and finds that it’s good for us after all. Even if it feels like deja vu.

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