Bryan Caplan, prophet of his time

From today’s NYT:

…not all parents are made wretched by their offspring. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, and the University of Pennsylvania found that people over the age of 40 [my link] are happier with children than without.

To arrive at this conclusion, the demographers Mikko Myrskyla and Rachel Margolis crunched data from the World Values Surveys, looking at self-reported levels of happiness among more than 200,000 respondents from 86 countries.

They studied how individual factors such as age, sex, income and health status affected happiness as well as how the respondents’ institutional and cultural context came into play — whether they lived in countries with a social democratic, conservative or developing regime. This led to some interesting off-shoot conclusions like this one: people in former socialist countries show a strong positive relationship between happiness and child-raising, with parents of three in those countries happiest of all.

But the most striking findings revolved around parenthood and age. Whether it is a function of exhaustion, bickering over diapers or something inherently unpleasant about raising little children, the data doesn’t say, but parents under 30 are decidedly less happy than their child-free peers. Then, once parents hit 40, the relationship reverses and people with children are cheerier than those without.

The more, the merrier, too — at least for older parents. For people under 30, happiness declines with each additional child. Young parents of two are unhappier than young parents with one, and young parents of one child are unhappier than young people with no children. But with parents between the ages of 40 and 50, the number of children has no impact. And after 50, each child brings more joy.

The source paper is here.  You can, and should, buy Bryan’s new book here.


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