Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 529–551 | Cite as

The increasing happiness of US parents

  • Chris M. HerbstEmail author
  • John Ifcher


Previous research suggests that parents may be less happy than non-parents. We critically assess the literature and examine parents’ and non-parents’ happiness-trends using the General Social Survey (N = 42,298) and DDB Lifestyle Survey (N = 75,237). We find that parents are becoming happier over time relative to non-parents, that non-parents’ happiness is declining absolutely, and that estimates of the parental happiness gap are sensitive to the time-period analyzed. These results are consistent across two datasets, most subgroups, and various specifications. Finally, we present evidence that suggests children appear to protect parents against social and economic forces that may be reducing happiness among non-parents.


Parents Happiness Life satisfaction Subjective well-being General Social Survey (GSS) DDB Lifestyle Survey (LSS) 

JEL Classification

D60 D10 



We wish to thank seminar participants at the WEAI annual meeting (San Diego), APPAM, and PAA as well as Rafael Di Tella, Richard Easterlin, Ori Heffetz, John Helliwell, Andrew Oswald, Stephen Wu, and two anonymous referees for their helpful comments and suggestions. All opinions and errors are those of the authors. The authors contributed equally to this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public AffairsArizona State University and IZAPhoenixUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsSanta Clara UniversitySanta ClaraUSA

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