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Social Indicators Research

, Volume 69, Issue 3, pp 303–349 | Cite as

Effect of family structure on life satisfaction: australian evidence

  • M. D. R. Evans
  • Jonathan Kelley
Article

Abstract

How do family arrangements affect subjective well-being? We investigate this issue using data pooled from the IsssA and HILDA, both large, representative national samples of Australia (pooled n=38 447). Our regression analysis of cross-sectional and panel data examines how large are the differences in life satisfaction according to marital status and cohabitation. We find that women and men in formal marriages experience higher levels of life satisfaction than do people in other family arrangements. Moreover, both multiple tests in the cross-section, and tests controlling for prior happiness in the panel analysis, suggest that this is a causal relationship. Aggregating up the levels of life satisfaction generated by different marriage and cohabitation arrangements across a lifetime, suggests that a life-long marriage is the most satisfying. Early divorce followed by an enduring second marriage is little worse (because little time is spent outside the married state). But divorce without remarriage, or long lasting cohabitation without formal marriage, reduce the lifetime sum of subjective well-being by 4–12% for both women and men.

Cohabition divorce life satisfaction marriage subjective well-being 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. D. R. Evans
    • 1
  • Jonathan Kelley
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MelbourneQueanbeyanAustralia

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