Is Adaptation to Marriage Rapid and Complete?

Anke C Zimmermann, University of Southern California
Richard A Easterlin, University of Southern California

Do people revert to their previous level of well-being after they get married? The answer is no. An analysis of 20 waves of the German Socio Economic Panel indicates that, on average, marriage has a lasting impact on life satisfaction, equal in magnitude to the effect of cohabitation prior to marriage. In the year of marriage and that immediately following there is also an additional boost in life satisfaction, a “honeymoon period” effect. Contrary to the conclusion of an earlier analysis of the same panel by several psychologists, our findings are consistent with the “social support” interpretation of the benefits of marriage, and reject the “selection” hypothesis. The difference is because we use an expanded model, one taking account of cohabitation and special characteristics of the sample. Our results also contradict the strong “setpoint” model of psychology, which sees life circumstances as having a negligible impact on life satisfaction.

  See paper

Presented in Session 158: Consequences of Marriage