Marriage at the Extremes: Comparing Union Happiness in Marriage and Cohabitation
Yan Yu, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Aimée R. Dechter, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Michael E. Sobel, Columbia University
Using data from the National Survey of Families and Households, this study compares how happy married and cohabiting individuals rate their union. Unlike previous studies that used linear regressions and focused on mean happiness, we used loglinear models to analyze two separate dimensions of happiness: the tendency to report the union as happy versus unhappy, and the tendency to report an extreme versus moderate rating of union happiness. We find that the tendency to report a happy versus an unhappy rating does not differ between married and cohabiting women, but is higher among married than cohabiting men, and the tendency to report an extreme versus moderate rating, both happy and unhappy, is higher among married than cohabiting individuals. The results are consistent with selection processes, and with expectations about how commitment to the union may affect union happiness ratings based on behavioral and socio-psychological processes.