Parenthood and Life Satisfaction: Do Children Really Not Make People Happy?

Matthias Pollmann-Schult, Social Science Research Center Berlin

Previous studies on the association between parenthood and life satisfaction ascertained that parents are not happier than childless people. This study addresses the question of why children do not enhance their parents’ life satisfaction. A major objective of this study is to scrutinize the hypothesis that children by themselves have a positive effect on life satisfaction but that these benefits are offset by financial and time costs of children. The empirical analysis applied fixed effects models and used data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (1993–2010, N = 13,093). The primary finding of this study is that, when taking into account the costs of children, parenthood substantially boosts life satisfaction. Moreover, the costs of children affect the life satisfaction of women and men differently. Whereas the benefits from parenthood for men were mainly offset by financial costs, the positive effects for mothers were overshadowed by financial as well as time costs.

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Presented in Session 6: Fertility, Health and Well-Being