Scientists are studying whether having children makes the parents happy and they are finding interesting results.
In comparing identical twins, Kohler found that mothers with one child are about 20 percent happier than their childless counterparts; and while fathers’ happiness gains are smaller, men enjoy an almost 75 percent larger happiness boost from a firstborn son than from a firstborn daughter. The first child’s sex doesn’t matter to mothers, perhaps because women are better than men at enjoying the company of both girls and boys, Kohler speculates.
Interestingly, second and third children don’t add to parents’ happiness at all. In fact, these additional children seem to make mothers less happy than mothers with only one child—though still happier than women with no children.
“If you want to maximize your subjective well-being, you should stop at one child,” concludes Kohler, adding that people probably have additional children either for the benefit of the firstborn or because they reason that if the first child made them happy, the second one will, too.
It looks like we have maximized our happiness with one kid. But unlike the men in this study, I really wanted a girl.
Economic and rational-choice theories suggest that individuals form unions or have children because these decisions increase their subjective well-being or “happiness.” We investigate this relation using within-MZ (identical) twin pair estimates to control for unobserved factors, such as optimistic preferences, that may simultaneously affect happiness, partnerships, and fertility. Our findings based on Danish twins aged 25-45 and 50-70 years old include the following. (1) Currently being in a partnership has large positive effects on happiness. (2) A first child substantially increases well-being, in analyses without controls for partnerships, and males enjoy an almost 75 percent larger happiness gain from a first-born son than from a first-born daughter; however, only females enjoy a happiness gain from the first-born child with control for partnerships. (3) Additional children beyond the first child have a negative effect on subjective well-being for females, while there is no effect for males. (4) Ever having had children does not significantly affect the subjective well-being of males or females aged 50-70 years.
Hat-tip: Marginal Revolution.