Married People Are Among the Happiest People in America, Study Claims

Sam Peltzman, an emeritus economics professor at the University of Chicago, concludes in a study that people who are married are happier than those who haven't tied the knot

<p>Getty</p> A stock image of wedding rings.


A stock image of wedding rings.

Let those wedding bells ring: Married people are among the happiest people in America, a new study claims.

The study, called the "The Socio Political Demography of Happiness," was conducted by Sam Peltzman, an emeritus economics professor at the University of Chicago, and published in July. For his study, Peltzman looked at the General Social Survey (GSS), which is a nationally representative survey of United States adults that has been conducted since 1972. According to the GSS website, the GSS uses the data it collects "in order to monitor and explain trends in opinions, attitudes and behaviors."

The survey rates Americans overall happiness by asking participants if they're “very happy,” “pretty happy” or “not too happy.”

After reviewing the GSS data while noting various factors — including age, race, gender, education, marital status, income and geography — Peltzman concluded that American people who are married are 30 points happier than those who are not married. While the other factors were important in determining a person’s overall happiness, Peltzman notes those factors didn’t matter as much as marital status. (Peltzman's study has not yet been peer reviewed.)

“The only happy people for 50 years have been married people,” Peltzman told The Atlantic.

Peltzman noted in his research that there’s also been a recent decline in the level of happiness reported by people in the GSS. He said he attributes the drop in overall happiness to less people getting married.

According to the United States Census, national marriage rates have declined from 2011 to 2021 by 1.4%. Axios reported that over the past 50 years, U.S. marriage rates dropped by 60%.

Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins, told The Atlantic that this decline could be related to the dwindling benefits for married couples. "Life is still a bit easier if you're married," he said. "But many of the life events we link to marriage, such as cohabitating or having kids, are increasingly occurring outside of marriage.”

While Peltzman’s study concludes that married couples are the happiest, The Institute for Family Studies reports that the GSS data also shows that actually fewer Americans believe that married people are the most content, The Atlantic noted.

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After analyzing the GSS data they found that in 1988, over 50% of people believed married people are happier than unmarried people. That percentage declined throughout the years to just under 40% in 2020.

Other studies similar to Peltzman’s have explored when and why married people are, in fact, happiest all around the world, according to The Atlantic.

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Related: Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick Celebrate 35th Wedding Anniversary: '35 Years Feels Like a Heartbeat'

In 2017, a study conducted using data from the British Household Panel Survey found that married people in England are more satisfied with their lives years after their marriage, The Atlantic reported.

“I’ve been waiting for Americans to have long-term cohabiting relationships like the Europeans do for decades now, and it hasn’t happened yet,” Cherlin told The Atlantic. "Happy cohabiting couples don’t show up in the data because there just aren’t that many of us.”

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