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Partner + Children = Happiness? The Effects of Partnerships and Fertility on Well-Being

Kohler, Behrman & Skytthe


Economic and rational-choice theories suggest that individuals form unions or have children because these decisions increase their subjective well-being or “happiness.” We investigate this relation using within-MZ (identical) twin pair estimates to control for unobserved factors, such as optimistic preferences, that may simultaneously affect happiness, partnerships, and fertility. Our findings, based on Danish twins aged 25–45 and 50–70 years old, include the following. (1) Currently being in a partnership has large positive effects on happiness. (2) A first child substantially increases well-being, in analyses without controls for partnerships, and males enjoy an almost 75 percent larger happiness gain from a first-born son than from a first-born daughter; however, only females enjoy a happiness gain from the first-born child with controls for partnerships. (3) Additional children beyond the first child have a negative effect on subjective well-being for females, while there is no effect for males. (4) Ever having had children does not significantly affect the subjective well-being of males or females aged 50–70 years.

Full article accessible through most university library subscriptions:
Kohler, Behrman & Skytthe “Partner + Children = Happiness? The Effects of Partnerships and Fertility on Well-Being”, Population and Development Review 31(3), 407-445.

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