Was the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side of the Fence? Divorce and Subjective Well-Being

Lance Erickson, Brigham Young University

Presumably, the prevalence of divorce is a result of the widespread expectation that it brings with it the opportunity for renewed happiness. Yet research on this topic is mixed. This study presents a causal estimate of the relationship between divorce and SWB using a matching estimator. The counterfactual model of causal inference suggests that when there is selection on the treatment (i.e., people decide to divorce based on its expected effect) an unbiased causal effect can only be estimated for those who receive the treatment (i.e., divorce). I replicate a recent study to establish a baseline estimate of the effect of divorce on SWB and then report a matching estimator of the relationship. I also report a sensitivity analysis to examine the robustness of the matching estimator. Results suggest that there is a significant relationship between divorce and SWB but that it is highly sensitive to missing variable bias.

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Presented in Poster Session 1