Children Don’t Lower Happiness After All

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Study Finds Children Increase Life Satisfaction Once Parent’s Financial Difficulties Are Considered 


Feb. 25, 2019 – Previous research has found that having children lowers parents’ happiness but a new study finds that happiness increases with children as long as they do not make it difficult to pay the bills. The study was conducted by a Dartmouth College-Paris School of Economics research team and was posted online today as part of this week’s National Bureau of Economic Research working papers.

The study also finds that children under the age of 10 bring more happiness than those between the ages of 10 to 14. Younger children appear to make parents happier than teenagers. Marital status and age of parents also has an effect. The findings demonstrate that married people with children are happier than those without children, and that those with children are happiest when they are under 45. The effect on happiness was specific to parents with children from their current relationship rather than those who were living with stepchildren.

“Children are expensive making it difficult for some parents to pay the bills. Our findings illustrate how you can flip the notion that children make parents unhappy. Once you control for a household’s financial circumstances, including any difficulties that they may have, the negative impact of children on life satisfaction disappears and becomes positive,” explains study co-author David G. Blanchflower, the Bruce V. Rauner 1978 Professor of Economics.

The researchers analyzed European data of 1 million people from Eurobarometer surveys from 2009 to 2018 in which respondents had to rank their life satisfaction on a one-to-four scale (with a mean of 2.93). The data reflected whether the presence of children affected happiness, whether the children were from the current relationship, if the parent was “single, married, living with a partner, divorced or separated or windowed” and the number of children living in the household.