Here’s a subject that I haven’t read about in a while – whether people are happier with children or without children – and, according to this story at voxeu, the question is a lot more complicated than it might seem, though the basic answer remains that it is the latter.
Study after study has shown that those who live with children are less satisfied with their lives than those who do not. Is there something wrong with these empirical analyses? Or is it that happiness measures are unreliable? This column argues that the results are correct but that comparisons of the wellbeing of parents and non-parents are of no help at all for people trying to decide whether to have children.
Our two new studies, Stone and Deaton (2013, 2014), use a large American data set from the Gallup Organization to try to get to the bottom of all this. The first paper focuses on the elderly, the second on parents and children.
If we look at everyone in the population (aged 18 and above), and consider child-at-home status and life evaluation, we get a version of the standard finding.
- People with at least one child at home evaluate their lives slightly less favourably than those with no child; the difference is equivalent to a 5% decline in income.
- Those who live with children also report more anger, stress, and worry, but also more happiness.
We don’t have children, but I sometimes wonder what it would be like – that feeling usually passes pretty quickly, though I’ve got nothing against kids. To me, it’s a personal preference and, unfortunately, a decision (or accident) that many people don’t even think about. For many, it’s as simple as get married, have kids and that’s not necessarily good.
Some friends of ours who are also in their early 50s have two adult children living at home (a daughter with a husband and their son) and that situation is not likely to change anytime soon. They seem to be quite happy with what, to me, would be almost a worst-case scenario for what they call the Boomerang Generation.