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The Marital Satisfaction of Differently Aged Couples

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We investigate how the marital age gap affects the evolution of marital satisfaction over the duration of marriage using household panel data from Australia. We find that men tend to be more satisfied with younger wives and less satisfied with older wives. Interestingly, women likewise tend to be more satisfied with younger husbands and less satisfied with older husbands. Marital satisfaction declines with marital duration for both men and women in differently aged couples relative to those in similarly aged couples. These relative declines erase the initial higher levels of marital satisfaction experienced by men married to younger wives and women married to younger husbands within 6 to 10 years of marriage. A possible mechanism is that differently aged couples are less resilient to negative shocks compared to similarly aged couples, which we find some supportive evidence for.
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ORIGINAL PAPER
The marital satisfaction of differently aged couples
Wang-Sheng Lee
1
&Terra McK i n n i sh
2
Received: 1 September 2016 / Accepted: 27 June 2017 / Published online: 15 July 2017
#Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017
Abstract We investigate how the marital age gap affects the evolution of marital
satisfaction over the duration of marriage using household panel data from Australia.
We find that men tend to be more satisfied with younger wives and less satisfied with
older wives. Interestingly, women likewise tend to be more satisfied with younger
husbands and less satisfied with older husbands. Marital satisfaction declines with
marital duration for both men and women in differently aged couples relative to those
in similarly aged couples. These relative declines erase the initial higher levels of
marital satisfaction experienced by men married to younger wives and women married
to younger husbands within 6 to 10 years of marriage. A possible mechanism is that
differently aged couples are less resilient to negative shocks compared to similarly aged
couples, which we find some supportive evidence for.
Keywords Assortativematching .Marital agegap .Marital duration .Marital satisfaction
JEL classification D1 .J12
1 Introduction
A well-documented feature of the marriage market is that individuals match assorta-
tively on age and that the most common pairing is one in which the husband is a few
years older than the wife (Presser 1975; Glick and Lin 1986). While this pattern of
J Popul Econ (2018) 31:337362
DOI 10.1007/s00148-017-0658-8
Responsible editor: Ale ssandro Cigno
*Wang-Sheng Lee
wang.lee@deakin.edu.au
Terra McKinnish
terra.mckinnish@colorado.edu
1
Department of Economics, Deakin University and IZA, 70 Elgar Road, Burwood,
VIC 3125, Australia
2
Department of Economics, University of Colorado and IZA, Boulder, CO 80309-0256, USA
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
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... The age gap between spouses matters because it may affect marital satisfaction. For example, differently aged couples have been found to suffer a more rapid decline in marital satisfaction, compared to similarly aged couples (Lee and McKinnish 2018). As a result, differently aged couples may be more likely to divorce than similarly aged couples (Cherlin 1977;Lillard et al. 1995). ...
... The results suggest that the reform contributes to assortative mating in terms of age. Previous studies have found that the age gap between spouses may affect marital satisfaction, and differently aged couples may suffer a more rapid decline in marital satisfaction, compared to similarly aged couples (e.g., Lee and McKinnish 2018). Also, other studies have found that differently aged couples may be more likely to divorce than similarly aged couples (e.g., Cherlin 1977;Lillard et al. 1995). ...
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