That box of chocolates, candlelight dinner, and Valentine's Day card from the nearby pharmacy is looking like a pretty good investment, according to some of Professor David Blanchflower's economics students.
Blanchflower, the Bruce V. Rauner Professor of Economics, set his students on a search for happiness in the data forest of the federal Center for Disease Control's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. They returned to say married people, regardless of age, gender, or race, are happier than their cohabitating, divorced, or single counterparts.
Emily Eisner '14 and Simon Zhang '14 write that 54 percent of married people say they are very satisfied with their lives compared with 40 percent of couples living together, 34 percent of divorced people, and 34 percent of those who have never been married.
While the data don't imply cause—does marriage make people happy or are happy people more likely to get married?—it does reveal interesting trends, "such as the fact that widows tend to be happier than divorcees and those who are separated, while people living with a partner but unmarried are only as happy as widows."
Eisner and Zhang conclude: "So, as some of us prepare to buy flowers for a loved one, we can take solace in the knowledge that it is money well spent. And hopefully that box of chocolates could lead to something more."
Marital Status Most Satisfied
Married 54.36 percent
Widowed 39.92 percent
Live w/partner 39.81 percent
Divorced 34.06 percent
Never married 33.51 percent
Separated 25.69 percent
BRFSS figures are self-reported satisfaction levels by U.S. participants by marital status.
Marital Status and Happiness
Students in Professor David Blanchflower's labor economics class gathered data (see box at right) from the Center for Disease Control's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and found that married people reported the highest level of life satisfaction, at 54.36 percent, compared with people in other situations.