Marriage, Cohabitation, and the Happiness Gap in Comparative Perspective

Kristen S. Lee, University at Buffalo, State University of New York (SUNY)
Hiroshi Ono, Texas A&M University

In this paper we investigate how the reported happiness of married and cohabiting individuals varies cross-nationally with societal gender beliefs and the religious context. Using hierarchical linear models and 2002 ISSP data from 27 countries (N = 40,056), we are able to model happiness as situated in a specific institutional context. Consistent with previous research, we find a happiness gap between married and cohabiting persons. In the case of women (but not for men), this gap is moderated by accounting for the gender climate or the religious context in the country. This suggests that, at least for women, this gap is not intractable but is rather an outcome of the social context. For men, marital status differences in reported happiness persist across the different social contexts studied.

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Presented in Session 76: Cohabitation, Relationship Quality, and Union Stability