Marriage holds the key to happiness

Marriage holds the key to happiness

The institution of marriage has been maligned, redefined, and condemned as an outdated and repressive institution that is fundamentally outdated in our post-Christian society. Increasingly, people are getting married much later — or not at all. And yet virtually every data set reveals, time and again, that marriage and family make people fundamentally unhappier. New research has affirmed once again that Americans who are married with children are happier and more prosperous than those who are single and childless — and that “nothing currently predicts happiness in life better than a good marriage.”

From Unherd:

This truth is borne out yet again in new research from the University of Chicago, which found that marriage is the “the most important differentiator” of who is happy in America, and that falling marriage rates are a chief reason why happiness has declined nationally. The research, surveying thousands of respondents, revealed a startling 30-percentage-point happiness divide between married and unmarried Americans. This happiness boost held true for both men and women.

“Marital status is and has been a very important marker for happiness,” researcher Sam Peltzman concludes. “The happiness landslide comes entirely from the married. Low happiness characterizes all types of non-married. No subsequent population categorization will yield so large a difference in happiness across so many people.”

Again, this should not be surprising. Data set after data set affirms this fact — research also indicates that religious conservatives who wait to have sex have the happiest marriages, and that couples who do not live together before marriage are more likely to have a successful marriage.

In other words, the closer we adhere to God’s plan for marriage the happier we are likely to be. In fact, Peltzman states that happiness has declined since 2000, and that the “recent decline in the married share of adults can explain (statistically) most of the recent decline in overall happiness.” Peltzman concurs with Dr. Jean Twenge’s analysis of the General Social Survey, which found that the “decline in marriage among working-class and poor Americans is one of the biggest factors explaining the growing happiness divide between the privileged and unprivileged.”

This research should drive government policymaking. Back in 2021, I interviewed the then-Family Minister (she currently serves as president) of Hungary Katalin Novák on the fascinating experiment the Orban government has undertaken. One of the key problems, Novák told me, was the state of marriage. In most developed countries, the popularity of marriage is evaporating — in Hungary, the number of marriages dropped 23% between 2002 and 2010. In response, she says, the government decided to support and incentivize marriage “because marriage is a more secure place for childbearing.” The experiment worked, and the trend was reversed. Since 2012, the number of marriages in Hungary has doubled.

Marriage is a fundamental good. Family is a fundamental good. Policymaking should not only recognize that fact but seek to encourage both. When we do so, we see social happiness begin to climb, crime begin to fall, stability in areas ravaged by dysfunction begin to reassert itself. Marriage has been derided, condemned, and increasingly abandoned. But nonetheless, it works — and the solution to much of what ails society can be found not be charting a new future but returning to the old tried and true ways of living.