Monday, May 03, 2010

Can you be happier than your wife?

Externalities abound in the real world and those within the household are some of the most salient. Perhaps the most salient occurs with regard to happiness, its hard to be happy if a loved one is not. So "you can't be happier than your wife". Unless you're a thoughtless git, that is. And if a big gap exists between the happiness of a couple, perhaps this leads to stress and ultimately a split. It can't help. The paper below looks at this and finds that, indeed, bigger gaps in happiness are predictive of divorce.
An important issue here is the granularity of measurement. If you measure happiness or life satisfaction on, say, a 20 point scale then you are less likely a couple on the same levels of measured happiness than if its a 10 point scale.
Intruiged by all this, I looked at life satisfaction in the SHARE data. It has a 4 point scale of life satisfaction (very satisfied,somewhat satisfied,somewhat dissatisfied,very dissatisfied). About 60% of individuals report the same level as their partner.
I didn't find any obvious predictors of this gap. Women are less likely to be more satisfied than their partners but largely because they report lower satisfaction in general.

You can't be happer than your wife:happiness gaps and divorce
C. Guven, C.Senik, H.Stichnoth

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