Happiness: Before and after the Kids

Mikko Myrskylä, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Rachel Margolis, University of Western Ontario

A growing body of cross-sectional research examines how children affect the well-being of parents. We study the trajectories of parental happiness before and after the birth of a child using British and German panel datasets which allow controlling for selection into parenthood. We find that happiness increases prior to and in the year of having a child and decreases thereafter, but not below the initial before-child levels. The pattern, however, is strongly modified by age at first birth: those who become parents at young ages have a downward trajectory, while those becoming parents at older ages have a permanently higher happiness level. Women experience stronger pre-birth highs and post-birth drops than men. The results, which are similar in Britain and Germany, suggest that the overall happiness effect of having a child is positive and particularly strong for older women, providing new insights into fertility postponement.

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