Dads Against the Divorce Industry

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Marital happiness valued as equal to fatter bank account
By Cheryl Wetzstein

Money may not buy you love, but true love is worth a lot of money, say two economics professors who have calculated that a lasting marriage is like having an extra $100,000 a year in income.

Money may not buy you love, but true love is worth a lot of money, say two economics professors who have calculated that a lasting marriage is like having an extra $100,000 a year in income.
     Americans are richer now than they were 26 years ago, but they are less happy, said David G. Blanchflower, co-author of the recent report, “Well-being Over Time in Britain and in the USA.”
     Since “money does buy happiness,” said Mr. Blanchflower, chairman of the department of economics at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., “we thought that . . . people’s happiness ought to have gone up. But it hasn’t.”
     Instead, the number of “very happy” people has declined in America and remained flat in Britain since 1972, said Mr. Blanchflower, who collaborated with Andrew J. Oswald, an economics professor at Warwick University in the United Kingdom, on the report.
     The professors concluded that family disruptions are costly, both emotionally and financially.
     Specifically, they said, someone would need to earn an extra $100,000 a year to compensate for being separated — the worst scenario for happiness — and earn an extra $90,000 a year to compensate for getting divorced.
     Conversely, being in a lasting marriage is like getting a $100,000 bonus a year, they said.
     The pair based their findings on national surveys taken between 1972 and 1998 that asked 100,000 people about their “happiness” and “life satisfaction.”
     The University of Chicago’s General Social Surveys of the United States, for instance, asks 1,500 persons a year questions such as, “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days — would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy or not too happy?”
     In England, Mr. Oswald used the Eurobarometer Surveys, which collected similar information on about 60,000 Britons since the early 1970s.
     In their report, released in November, the professors found that happiness in the United States was trending down, with the number of Americans who said they were “very happy” dropping from 34 percent in 1972 to 30 percent in 1998.
     In Britain, meanwhile, a consistent 31 percent of Britons said they were “very happy.”
     The professors also found that:
      Happiness levels follow a U-shape, rising in youth, declining in middle age, bottoming out at age 40 and rising again.
      The happiest people are women, married couples, the highly educated and those whose parents did not divorce.
      American whites are significantly more happy than American blacks — 21 percent of blacks are “not too happy” compared with 11 percent of whites. However, happiness is trending up for blacks and down for whites, “so the gap is narrowing,” said Mr. Blanchflower.
      Women are happier than men, but this is changing: The number of “very happy” women fell from 36 percent in 1972 to 29 percent in 1998. Meanwhile, men’s happiness is trending upward.
      Adults whose parents divorced have lower levels of well-being than other adults even if the divorce occurred decades ago.
      Cohabiting women are happier than single women but markedly less happy than married women.
      Being unemployed brings almost the same level of unhappiness as being divorced.
      Second marriages appear to be less happy than first marriages.
      Being separated is the single greatest depressor of reported happiness. This is followed closely by being widowed.

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Reprinted with permission from The Washington Times.
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