Skip to main content

Marriage and Happiness: Evidence from Taiwan

Abstract

Using Taiwan’s PSFD data and within-between panel data models, this study investigated the relation between marriage and happiness. It did not find a selection effect, indicating that there is no statistical evidence that married people were happier two or more years before getting married. There was a honeymoon effect during the marriage year. Several samples were constructed to investigate whether happiness level quickly returned to the baseline after marriage. The results of most samples showed that the happiness levels were significantly higher than the baseline within 3 years of marriage. Although the happiness level after the fourth year of marriage is not significant, its magnitude is not small, indicating a diversity of happiness status after 3 years of marriage. Marriage, on average, enhances happiness more and longer for women than for men.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

Notes

  1. 1.

    Lucas et al. (2003) stressed that the happiness quick return to the baseline after marriage is the average trend, and there is a great diversity among individuals.

  2. 2.

    Musick and Bumpass (2012) did not intend to investigate the issue of adaptation, but their findings do not espouse full adaptation.

  3. 3.

    Although Fig. 2 in Stutzer and Frey (2006) showed that satisfaction with life after marriage declined to the level of five years before marriage, they did not see this result as support of full adaptation. They stated (pp. 11–12): “Whether this adaptation is truly hedonic, or whether married people start using a different scaling for what they consider a satisfying life (satisfaction treadmill), is difficult to assess,” and “Given the strong pattern in the age-life satisfaction profile, conclusions about full adaptation or that there is no marriage effect, however, are difficult to draw”.

  4. 4.

    Gullop World Poll Questions: Did you experience happiness during a lot of the day yesterday? World Value Survey: Taking all things together, would you say you are: 1. Very happy; 2. Quite happy; 3. Not very happy; 4. Not at all happy. National Survey of Families and Households: Taking all things together, would you say you are: 1 = Very unhappy to 7 = very happy.

  5. 5.

    In contrast to studies cited in this study using longitudinal data sets, Easterlin (2003) used a cohort study to argue that there is no selection effect. He noted that marriage rate dramatically rises from late teens to their late 20 s, and that the happiness level also rises during the same part of lifespan. If there is a selection effect, then the average happiness of the singles left in the same cohorts should decline. But it did not decline.

  6. 6.

    According to Taiwan Social Development Trend Survey (2002), 83.94% unmarried adults live with their parents. Of unmarried adults who did not live with their parents, most of them migrated to metropolitan areas for a job. This survey discontinued after 2002, but today the majority of unmarried Taiwanese adults still live with their parents.

References

  1. Argyle, M. (2003). Causes and correlates of happiness. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 353–373). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Arrosa, M. L., & Gandelman, N. (2016). Happiness decomposition: Female optimism. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(2), 731–756.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bell, A., & Jones, K. (2015). Explaining fixed effects: Random effects modeling of time-series cross-sectional and panel data. Political Science Research and Methods, 3(1), 133–153.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2004). Well-being over time in Britain and the USA. Journal of Public Economics, 88(7), 1359–1386.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2008). Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle? Social Science and Medicine, 66(8), 1733–1749.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2016). Antidepressants and age: A new form of evidence for U-shaped well-being through life. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 127, 46–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Cheng, T. C., Powdthavee, N., & Oswald, A. J. (2017). Longitudinal evidence for a midlife nadir in human well-being: Results from four data sets. The Economic Journal, 127(599), 126–142.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Clark, A. (2007). Born to be mild? Cohort effects don’t (fully) explain why well-being is U-shaped in age. IZA DP No. 3170.

  9. Clark, A. E., Diener, E., Georgellis, Y., & Lucas, R. E. (2008). Lags and leads in life satisfaction: A test of the baseline hypothesis. The Economic Journal, 118(529), F222–F243.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Demidenko, E. (2004). Mixed models: Theory and applications. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  11. Di Tella, R., MacCulloch, R. J., & Oswald, A. J. (2001). Preferences over inflation and unemployment: Evidence from surveys of happiness. The American Economic Review, 91(1), 335–341.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Diener, E., Gohm, C. L., Suh, E. M., & Oishi, S. (2000). Similarity of the relations between marital status and subjective well-being across cultures. Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology, 31(4), 419–436.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Easterlin, R. A. (2003). Explaining happiness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(19), 11176–11183.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Easterlin, R. A. (2005). Diminishing marginal utility of income? Caveat emptor. Social Indicators Research, 70(3), 243–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A., & Frijters, P. (2004). How important is methodology for the estimates of the determinants of happiness? The Economic Journal, 114(497), 641–659.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Frijters, P., Johnston, D. W., & Shields, M. A. (2011). Life satisfaction dynamics with quarterly life event data. The Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 113(1), 190–211.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Gove, W. R. (1973). Sex, marital status, and mortality. American Journal of Sociology, 79(1), 45–67.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Green, D. P., Kim, S. Y., & Yoon, D. H. (2001). Dirty pool. International Organization, 55(2), 441–468.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Guven, C., Senik, C., & Stichnoth, H. (2012). You can’t be happier than your wife. Happiness gaps and divorce. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 82(1), 110–130.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Hao, L. (1996). Family structure, private transfers, and the economic well-being of families with children. Social Forces, 75(1), 269–292.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Kessler, R. C., & Essex, M. (1982). Marital status and depression: The importance of coping resources. Social Forces, 61(2), 484–507.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Lucas, R. E. (2007). Adaptation and the set-point model of subjective well-being does happiness change after major life events? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(2), 75–79.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Lucas, R. E., & Clark, A. E. (2006). Do people really adapt to marriage? Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(4), 405–426.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Lucas, R. E., Clark, A. E., Georgellis, Y., & Diener, E. (2003). Reexamining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: Reactions to changes in marital status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(3), 527–539.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Marks, N. F., & Lambert, J. D. (1998). Marital status continuity and change among young and midlife adults longitudinal effects on psychological well-being. Journal of Family Issues, 19(6), 652–686.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Mundlak, Y. (1978). On the pooling of time series and cross section data. Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society, 46, 69–85.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Musick, K., & Bumpass, L. (2012). Reexamining the case for marriage: Union formation and changes in well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74(1), 1–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Myers, D. G. (2003). Close relationships and quality of life. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 374–391). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Næss, S., Blekesaune, M., & Jakobsson, N. (2015). Marital transitions and life satisfaction: Evidence from longitudinal data from Norway. Acta Sociologica, 58(1), 63–78.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Pearlin, L. I., & Johnson, J. S. (1977). Marital status, life-strains and depression. American Sociological Review, 42(5), 704–715.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Qari, S. (2014). Marriage, adaptation and happiness: Are there long-lasting gains to marriage? Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, 50, 29–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Soons, J. P., Liefbroer, A. C., Kalmijn, M., & Johnson, D. (2009). The long-term consequences of relationship formation for subjective well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71(5), 1254–1270.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Stack, S., & Eshleman, J. R. (1998). Marital status and happiness: A 17-nation study. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60(2), 527–536.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Umberson, D. (1992). Gender, marital status and the social control of health behavior. Social Science and Medicine, 34(8), 907–917.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Waite, L. J. (1995). Does marriage matter? Demography, 32(4), 483–507.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Waite, L., & Gallagher, M. (2000). The case for marriage: Why married people are healthier, happier, and better-off financially. Westminster, MD: Broadway Books.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Wilson, C. M., & Oswald, A. J. (2005). How does marriage affect physical and psychological health? A survey of the longitudinal evidence. The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.

  40. Wood, W., Rhodes, N., & Whelan, M. (1989). Sex differences in positive well-being: A consideration of emotional style and marital status. Psychological Bulletin, 106(2), 249.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The author thanks Chen-Ling Yeh for her excellent assistance with the data collection and analyses. Financial support from Taiwan Ministry of Science and Technology is acknowledged. Award Number: MOST 106-2410-H-031-003.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hung-Lin Tao.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Tao, HL. Marriage and Happiness: Evidence from Taiwan. J Happiness Stud 20, 1843–1861 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-018-0029-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Happiness
  • Marriage
  • Set-point hypothesis
  • Full adaptation
  • Partial adaptation