Happiness, Post-materialist Values, and the Unmarried

  • Elyakim Kislev
Research Paper


With the rise of individualism and post-materialist values comes the fall in the importance of marriage. However, it is still not clear how these two processes affect each other in terms of individuals’ wellbeing and happiness. Thus, the aim of this paper is to gain a better understanding of how happiness may be moderated by post-materialist values among different groups of marital status: never married, divorced/separated, widowed, married, and cohabiting individuals. Through executing a multilevel analysis on data from the European Social Survey between 2002 and 2014, this paper demonstrates a clear relationship between post-materialist values and levels of happiness. Moreover, it is shown that holding post-materialist views provides greater levels of happiness for singles than it does for cohabiters and married individuals, raising questions about the relationship between marriage and happiness in a post-materialist era.


Marriage Singlehood Individualism Post-materialism 


  1. Adams, R. G. (1985). People would talk: Normative barriers to cross-sex friendships for elderly women. The Gerontologist, 25(6), 605–611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aghajanian, A., & Thompson, V. (2013). Recent divorce trend in Iran. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 54(2), 112–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amato, P. R. (2010). Research on divorce: Continuing trends and new developments. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72(3), 650–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barnett, R., Gareis, K. C., James, J. B., & Steele, J. (2003). Planning ahead: College seniors’ concerns about career–marriage conflict. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 62(2), 305–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barnett, R. C., & Hyde, J. S. (2001). Women, men, work, and family. American Psychologist, 56(10), 781.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bauman, Z. (2013). Liquid love: On the frailty of human bonds. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bengtson, V. L., & Putney, N. M. (2000). Who will care for tomorrow’s elderly? Consequences of population aging east and west. In V. L. Bengtson, K.-D. Kim, G. Myers, & K.-S. Eun (Eds.), Aging in east and west: Families, states, and the elderly (pp. 263–285). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  8. Bettini, L. M., & Laurie Norton, M. (1991). The pragmatics of inter generational friendships. Communication Reports, 4(2), 64–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blossfeld, H.-P., & De Rose, A. (1992). Educational expansion and changes in entry into marriage and motherhood. The experience of Italian women. Genus, 48(3/4), 73–91.Google Scholar
  10. Blossfeld, H.-P., & Huinink, J. (1991). Human capital investments or norms of role transition? How women’s schooling and career affect the process of family formation. American Journal of Sociology, 97(1), 143–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brockmann, H., Delhey, J., Welzel, C., & Yuan, H. (2009). The China puzzle: Falling happiness in a rising economy. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10(4), 387–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Budgeon, S. (2008). Couple culture and the production of singleness. Sexualities, 11(3), 301–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Burt, S., Donnellan, M., Humbad, M. N., Hicks, B. M., McGue, M., & Iacono, W. G. (2010). Does marriage inhibit antisocial behavior?: An examination of selection vs causation via a longitudinal twin design. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67(12), 1309–1315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Callero, P. L. (2015). Living alone: Globalization, identity, and belonging. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 44(5), 667–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cherlin, A. J. (2004). The deinstitutionalization of American marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66(4), 848–861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Coleman, D. (2004). Why we don’t have to believe without doubting in the “second demographic transition”—some agnostic comments. Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, 2, 11–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. de Kaa, V., & Dirk, J. (2001). Postmodern fertility preferences: From changing value orientation to new behavior. Population and Development Review, 27, 290–331.Google Scholar
  18. de Kaa, V., & Dirk, J. (2003). Second demographic transition. Encyclopedia of Population, 2, 872–875.Google Scholar
  19. DePaulo, B. M. (2007). Singled out: How singles are stereotyped, stigmatized, and ignored, and still live happily ever after. New York: St. Martin Griffin.Google Scholar
  20. DePaulo, B. (2014). Single in a society preoccupied with couples. In R. J. Coplan & J. C. Bowker (Eds.), Handbook of solitude: Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone (pp. 302–316). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  21. DePaulo, B. (2015). How we live now: Redefining home and family in the 21st century. Hillsboro, OR: Atria Books.Google Scholar
  22. DePaulo, B. M., & Morris, W. L. (2006). The unrecognized stereotyping and discrimination against singles. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(5), 251–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Duch, R. M., & Taylor, M. A. (1993). Postmaterialism and the economic condition. American Journal of Political Science, 37(3), 747–779.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dupre, M. E., & Meadows, S. O. (2007). Disaggregating the effects of marital trajectories on health. Journal of Family Issues, 28(5), 623–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Easterlin, R. A. (2009). Lost in transition: Life satisfaction on the road to capitalism. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 71(2), 130–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Easterlin, R. A., McVey, L. A., Switek, M., Sawangfa, O., & Zweig, J. S. (2010). The happiness-income paradox revisited. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(52), 22463–22468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Engelberg, A. (2016). Religious Zionist singles: Caught between “Family Values” and “Young Adulthood”. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 55(2), 349–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7(2), 117–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Flanagan, S. C. (1979). Value change and partisan change in Japan: The silent revolution revisited. Comparative Politics, 11(3), 253–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Flanagan, S. C. (1982). Measuring value change in advanced industrial societies: A rejoinder to Inglehart. Comparative Political Studies, 15(1), 99–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2000). Happiness, economy and institutions. The Economic Journal, 110(466), 918–938.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fry, R. (2013). A rising share of young adults live in their parents’ home, vol. 1. Social Demographic Trends Project. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.Google Scholar
  33. Fu, X., & Heaton, T. B. (1995). A cross-national analysis of family and household structure. International Journal of Sociology of the Family, 25(2), 1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gallagher, M., & Waite, L. (2000). The case for marriage. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  35. Garrison, M., & Scott, E. S. (2012). Marriage at the crossroads: Law, policy, and the brave new world of twenty-first-century families. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Gautier, P. A., Svarer, M., & Teulings, C. N. (2010). Marriage and the city: Search frictions and sorting of singles. Journal of Urban Economics, 67(2), 206–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Gerstel, N., & Sarkisian, N. (2006). Marriage: The good, the bad, and the greedy. Contexts, 5(4), 16–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Glenn, N. (2001). Is the current concern about American marriage warranted. Virginia Journal of Social Policy & Law, 9, 5–47.Google Scholar
  39. Golini, A., & Silverstrini, A. (2013). Family change, fathers, and children in Western Europe: A demographic and psychosocial perspective. In S. Dreman (Ed.), The family on the threshold of the 21st century: Trends and implications (p. 201). New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  40. Gove, W. R., Hughes, M., & Style, C. B. (1983). Does marriage have positive effects on the psychological well-being of the individual? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24(2), 122–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Grassby, R. (2000). Kinship and capitalism: Marriage, family, and business in the english-speaking world, 1580–1740. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Hartup, W. W., & Stevens, N. (1997). Friendships and adaptation in the life course. Psychological Bulletin, 121(3), 355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. HDI. (2016). Human development index. New York: Human Development Report Office, The United Nation.
  44. Helliwell, J. F., & Grover, S. (2014). How’s life at home? New evidence on marriage and the set point for happiness. NBER Working Paper Series:20794.Google Scholar
  45. Hughes, M. E., & Waite, L. J. (2009). Marital biography and health at mid-life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 50(3), 344–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Inglehart, R. (1971). The silent revolution in Europe: Intergenerational change in post-industrial societies. American Political Science Review, 65(04), 991–1017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Inglehart, R., & Abramson, P. R. (1999). Measuring postmaterialism. American Political Science Review, 93(03), 665–677.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Inglehart, R., & Flanagan, S. C. (1987). Value change in industrial societies. American Political Science Review, 81(04), 1289–1319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Jobse, R. B., & Musterd, S. (1992). Changes in the residential function of the big cities. In F. M. Dieleman & S. Musterd (Eds.), The Randstad: A research and policy laboratory (pp. 39–64). Berlin, The Netherlands: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Johnson, D. R., & Wu, J. (2002). An empirical test of crisis, social selection, and role explanations of the relationship between marital disruption and psychological distress: A pooled time-series analysis of four-wave panel data. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(1), 211–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kiernan, K. (2004). Unmarried cohabitation and parenthood in Britain and Europe. Law & Policy, 26(1), 33–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Kislev, E. (Forthcoming). Happy singlehood: What Makes a happy single? Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  53. Klinenberg, E. (2012). Going solo: The extraordinary rise and surprising appeal of living alone. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  54. Knee, C. R., Hadden, B. W., Porter, B., & Rodriguez, L. M. (2013). Self-determination theory and romantic relationship processes. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 17(4), 307–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Koball, H. L., Moiduddin, E., Henderson, J., Goesling, B., & Besculides, M. (2010). What do we know about the link between marriage and health? Journal of Family Issues, 31(8), 1019–1040.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Lavee, Y., & Katz, R. (2003). The family in Israel: Between tradition and modernity. Marriage & Family Review, 35(1–2), 193–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Lesthaeghe, R. (1995). The second demographic transition in western countries: An interpretation. In K. O. Mason & A.-M. Jensen (Eds.), Gender and family change in industrialized countries (pp. 17–62). Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  58. Lesthaeghe, R. (2010). The unfolding story of the second demographic transition. Population and Development Review, 36(2), 211–251. doi: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2010.00328.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Lesthaeghe, R., & Surkyn, J. (1988). Cultural dynamics and economic theories of fertility change. Population and Development Review, 14(1), 1–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Llopis-Goig, R. (2014). Sports participation and cultural trends. Running as a reflection of individualisation and post-materialism processes in Spanish society. European Journal for Sport and Society, 11(2), 151–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Lopata, H. Z. (1971). Widows as a minority group. The Gerontologist, 11(1), 67–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Maeda, E., & Hecht, M. L. (2012). Identity search: Interpersonal relationships and relational identities of always-single Japanese women over time. Western Journal of Communication, 76(1), 44–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Maslow, A. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper & Brothers.Google Scholar
  64. Maslow, A. (1968). Toward a new psychology of being. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.Google Scholar
  65. Mays, V. M., & Cochran, S. D. (2001). Mental health correlates of perceived discrimination among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 91(11), 1869–1876.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. McEwen, R., & Wellman, B. (2013). Relationships, community, and networked individuals. In R. Teigland & D. Power (Eds.), The immersive internet: Reflections on the entangling of the virtual with society, politics and the economy (pp. 168–179). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Mencarini, L., & Sironi, M. (2012). Happiness, housework and gender inequality in Europe. European Sociological Review, 28(2), 203–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Mogilner, C., Kamvar, S. D., & Aaker, J. (2010). The shifting meaning of happiness. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(4), 395–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Morris, W. L., & Osburn, B. K. (2016). Do you take this marriage? Perceived choice over marital status affects the stereotypes of single and married people. In K. Adamczyk (Ed.), Singlehood from individual and social perspectives (pp. 145–162). Krakow, Poland: Libron Publishing.Google Scholar
  70. National Bureau of Statistics of China. (2013). China statistics: National statistics. Beijing.Google Scholar
  71. Noh, S., & Kaspar, V. (2003). Perceived discrimination and depression: Moderating effects of coping, acculturation, and ethnic support. American Journal of Public Health, 93(2), 232–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Oishi, S., Graham, J., Kesebir, S., & Galinha, I. C. (2013). Concepts of happiness across time and cultures. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39(5), 559–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Orden, S. R., & Bradburn, N. M. (1968). Dimensions of marriage happiness. American Journal of Sociology, 73(6), 715–731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Parker, L., Riyani, I., & Nolan, B. (2016). The stigmatisation of widows and divorcees (Janda) in Indonesia, and the possibilities for agency. Indonesia and the Malay World, 44(128), 27–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Patrick, H., Raymond Knee, C., Canevello, A., & Lonsbary, C. (2007). The role of need fulfillment in relationship functioning and well-being: A self-determination theory perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(3), 434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Poortman, A.-R., & Liefbroer, A. C. (2010). Singles’ relational attitudes in a time of individualization. Social Science Research, 39(6), 938–949.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Popenoe, D. (2009). Cohabitation, marriage, and child wellbeing: A cross-national perspective. Society, 46(5), 429–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Power, C., Rodgers, B., & Hope, S. (1999). Heavy alcohol consumption and marital status: Disentangling the relationship in a national study of young adults. Addiction, 94(10), 1477–1487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Putnam, R. D. (1995). Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. Journal of Democracy, 6(1), 65–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Quisumbing, A. R., & Hallman, K. (2005). Marriage in transition: Evidence on age, education, and assets from six developing countries (Vol. 183). New York: Population council.Google Scholar
  81. Reynolds, J. (2013). The single woman: A discursive investigation. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  82. Reynolds, J., & Wetherell, M. (2003). The discursive climate of singleness: The consequences for women’s negotiation of a single identity. Feminism & Psychology, 13(4), 489–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Sbarra, D. A., & Nietert, P. J. (2009). Divorce and death forty years of the Charleston heart study. Psychological Science, 20(1), 107–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Schaufeli, W. B., Taris, T. W., & Van Rhenen, W. (2008). Workaholism, burnout, and work engagement: Three of a kind or three different kinds of employee well-being? Applied Psychology, 57(2), 173–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Schwartz, S. H. (2003). A proposal for measuring value orientations across nations. Bergen: NSD - Norwegian Centre for Research Data.Google Scholar
  87. Sharp, E. A., & Ganong, L. (2011). “I’ma Loser, I’m Not Married, Let’s Just All Look at Me”: Ever-Single Women’s Perceptions of Their Social Environment. Journal of Family Issues, 32(7), 956–980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Sicilia Camacho, A., Aguila Soto, C., González-Cutre, D., & Moreno-Murcia, J. A. (2011). Postmodern values and motivation towards leisure and exercise in sports centre users. RICYDE: Revista Internacional de Ciencias del Deporte, 7(25), 320–335.Google Scholar
  89. Slonim, G., Gur-Yaish, N., & Katz, R. (2015). By choice or by circumstance?: Stereotypes of and feelings about single people. Studia Psychologica, 57(1), 35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Stack, S., & Ross Eshleman, J. (1998). Marital status and happiness: A 17-nation study. Journal of Marriage and Family, 60(2), 527–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Stein, P. J. (1975). Singlehood: An alternative to marriage. Family Coordinator, 24(4), 489–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Stutzer, A., & Frey, B. S. (2006). Does marriage make people happy, or do happy people get married? The Journal of Socio-Economics, 35(2), 326–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Veenhoven, R. (1988). The utility of happiness. Social Indicators Research, 20(4), 333–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Wade, T. J., & Pevalin, D. J. (2004). Marital transitions and mental health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 45(2), 155–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Wang, W., & Parker, K. C. (2014). Record share of Americans have never married: As values, economics and gender patterns change. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.Google Scholar
  96. Weger, H. (2015). Cross-sex friendships. In C. R. Berger (Ed.), The international encyclopedia of interpersonal communication. New Jersey: Wiley.Google Scholar
  97. Weston, K. (2013). Families we choose: Lesbians, gays, kinship. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  98. White, L. K., & Booth, A. (1991). Divorce over the life course the role of marital happiness. Journal of Family Issues, 12(1), 5–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Zimmermann, A. C., & Easterlin, R. A. (2006). Happily ever after? Cohabitation, marriage, divorce, and happiness in Germany. Population and Development Review, 32(3), 511–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Federmann School of Public Policy and GovernmentThe Hebrew UniversityJerusalemIsrael

Personalised recommendations