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Although cross-sectional studies have shown a reliable association between marital status and subjective well-being, a recent longitudinal study [Lucas et al. 2003, Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 84(3), pp.␣527–539] found no support for the idea that happiness increases after marriage. Instead, participants who got married reported short-term increases followed by complete adaptation back to baseline levels of well-being. However, researchers have criticized this study on two grounds. First, these results contradict cohort-based analyses from a nationally representative sample. Second, these analyses do not control for pre-marriage cohabitation, which could potentially inflate baseline levels of well-being. The original data (plus four additional waves) are reanalyzed to address these concerns. Results confirm that individuals do not get a lasting boost in life satisfaction following marriage.

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Correspondence to Richard E. Lucas.

Additional information

The data used in this paper were made available by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). This research was supported by a grant from the Anthony Marchionne Foundation.

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Lucas, R.E., Clark, A.E. DO PEOPLE REALLY ADAPT TO MARRIAGE?. J Happiness Stud 7, 405–426 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-006-9001-x

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  • subjective well being
  • marriage
  • adaptation
  • happiness
  • setpoint theory