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Dartmouth News
>  News Releases >   1999 >   November

A lasting marriage is worth $100,000 a year concludes new analysis of happiness

Posted 11/16/99

A lasting marriage brings as much happiness as having an additional $100,000 income, according to a new research report on levels of happiness, "Well-Being in Britain and the U.S."

The study, by economists Professor David Blanchflower at Dartmouth College and Andrew Oswald at the University of Warwick in Great Britain, found that married people report much higher happiness levels than the unmarried. The authors examined the lives of 100,000 randomly sampled people in the U.S. and Great Britain from the early 1970s to 1998.

The overall level of happiness among Americans has declined in the last thirty years, despite a progressively improving standard of living, according to the report. While people with higher incomes generally tend to be happier, factors such as marital and employment status, age and education level also had a considerable impact on one's sense of well being. For example, when the amount of happiness generated by a lasting marriage was compared to the amount of happiness produced by one's financial circumstances, the authors' statistical calculations showed a lasting marriage brings as much happiness as an additional $100,000 of annual income.

Some other conclusions in the report include:

  • Women, the highly educated and married people are the happiest.
  • While women historically have reported being happier than men, the gap is closing.
  • Money does buy happiness – but less than is generally thought.
  • The graph of happiness over one's life-time is U-shaped, falling to its lowest point at around age 40 and increasing after that point.
  • African Americans in the U.S. are much less happy than whites, but the "happiness gap" between the two groups is shrinking.

NOTE: Click here for the entire study "Well-Being in Britain and the U.S."

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