A Bundle of Joy: Does Parenting Really Make Us Miserable?

Chris Herbst, Arizona State University
John D. Ifcher, Santa Clara University

A large literature suggests that parents are less happy than non-parents. We critically assess this literature and reexamine the relationship between parenthood and well-being. We find that: parental- happiness-gap estimates are highly sensitive to the inclusion of standard covariates; parents are happier than non-parents in many specifications; and parents became happier over time relative to non-parents. Results are consistent across two datasets, most sub-groups, and numerous specification checks. We also present evidence that parenthood may inoculate parents against forces that are reducing well-being. Our research demonstrates the need for new identification strategies to determine whether parenting really makes us miserable.

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Presented in Session 57: Happiness and Economic and Social Well-Being