Stories | November 17, 2009

The price of happiness

How much are marriage and children worth?

An academic has put dollar values on the effects on happiness of major events in life, such as marriage, divorce and the birth of a child.

Getting married is like getting a surprise cheque of AU$32,000(EUR20,000 and US$ 30,000) for a man, but for a woman brings a windfall of just $16,000, according to Australian academic Paul Frijters. Frijters - this year named the Economic Society of Australia's best Australian economist under 40 - used data collected annually from 10,000 people since 2001.

Money can buy you love (or an equivalent feeling at least)
As with the happiness value from marriage, men also get a bigger boost from the birth of a child, the Queensland University of Technology professor found. The lifetime boost to happiness that flows from a birth was about $8,700 for the mother and $32,600 for the father.
Loss was also equated to a financial toll. The death of a spouse or child was calculated to cause a woman $130,900 worth of grief but a man $627,300. Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Frijters said: "Losing a loved one has a much bigger effect than gaining a loved one … This shouldn't surprise us. Human beings seem primed to notice losses more than gains”.

The gender gap
In divorce, Australian men would feel as if they had lost $110,000, compared with $9,000 for Australian women. Frijters told the Sydney Morning Herald he did not know why there was such a large discrepancy.

What happens with foreign exchanges?
Economists in other countries have found similar results when measuring happiness. Andrew Oswald, at the University of Warwick in the UK, presented his Happiness, Money, and Your Heart study in Italy in May. Oswald tracked the impact of divorce, for example, on a person’s happiness over time. He also found that winning the lottery did not bring immediate happiness – instead taking at least two years to show up in mental well-being measurements.

eZonomics team
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