Social Indicators Research

, Volume 126, Issue 3, pp 1025–1048 | Cite as

Marriage and Subjective Well-Being: How and Why Context Matters

  • Tim WadsworthEmail author


Over the last 20 years the academic community has experienced a burgeoning interest in the causes and correlates of subjective well-being. One of the most consistent findings has been that married respondents report higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction than unmarried respondents. Despite its prevalence, scant empirical research has focused on the potential mechanisms driving this relationship. The current work draws on the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System along with 2000 US Census data to investigate the role of context and reference groups in shaping the relationship between marriage and well-being. The primary research question is whether marriage has a greater influence on life satisfaction when it is more common and thus more normative? The findings offer new insight into the marriage/well-being relationship and have broad implication for how we think about the study of the causes and correlates of subjective well-being.


Subjective well-being Life satisfaction Marriage Normative achievement Happiness Norms 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA

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