Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Divorce and the happiness gap

Why do people divorce? One spouse having some "escapades" is grounds for divorce, but it is a relatively rare occurrence. Much more frequent is "unhappiness." That is obviously difficult to quantify as this is fundamentally subjective, and it usually not advised to compare measure of happiness across people. Yet, analyzing such data is quite revealing.

Cahit Guven, Claudia Senik and Holger Stichnoth show that divorces are predictable by self-reported happiness gaps within couples. One interpretation is that somehow within couple transfers of utility are not working (one spouse is not making concessions). And divorce is more likely to happen if the wife in unhappy. That should surprise no one. What would be really interesting here is to see what the expectations are. After all, happiness is all about how expectations are met. And I wonder whether women have relatively high expectations from marriage, and the disappointment of not meeting those expectations leads to unhappiness and then divorce. But that is probably even more iffy to measure than happiness.

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