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Re-evaluating the link between marriage and mental well-being: how do early life conditions attenuate differences between cohabitation and marriage?

21st January 2016 2pm, University of Southampton, 58/1067

Marta Styrc, University of Southampton

The decline in marriage and increase in cohabitation raises questions about whether marriage still provides benefits to well-being. Here we use the British Cohort Study 1970 (N=7203), a prospective survey following respondents to age 42, to examine whether partnerships in general, and marriage in particular, provide benefits to mental well-being in mid-life. We use propensity score matching to investigate whether childhood characteristics are a sufficient source of selection to eliminate differences in well-being between different partnership types. We find that matching on childhood characteristics does not eliminate advantages to living with a partner. However, the type of partnership does not matter; among those less likely to marry, marriage provides no benefits to well-being beyond cohabitation. The sources of childhood selection seem to differ by gender: matching on educational plans and scores tends to eliminate differences for women, while adolescent mental well-being eliminates many differences between cohabitation and marriage for men.