Tie the Knot: Marriage satisfying for young couples

By Kathy Zhao / Staff Writer

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Sarah Cassatt says financial stability is an important factor in deciding whether she and her boyfriend of three years will marry. 

“Being married means that we are finally financially independent and capable of making the decision together,” Cassatt, a junior majoring in nutrition and dietetics, said. 

According to a paper published in December by the National Bureau of Economic Research, she and other millennials shouldn’t approach marriage so cautiously. The paper, titled “How’s Life at Home? New Evidence on Marriage and the Set Point for Happiness,” shows a causal relationship between people being in a marriage and feeling more satisfied in their lives.

Marriage is a conversation topic for Cassatt and her boyfriend, she said, but they haven’t made a decision because of factors like long distance and finishing school. 

To author the NBER paper, Shawn Grover and John Helliwell analyzed data from the United Kingdom’s Annual Population Survey, British Household Panel Survey and the Gallup World Poll.

While previous studies have shown a positive correlation between marriage and well-being, Grover and Helliwell’s study suggests a stronger relationship between the two — specifically that married people are happier than their single counterparts.

Grover, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, said they arrived at this conclusion, specifically because of the data sets they chose.

“[W]e were able to see how happy the people who ended up getting married back were when they were single,” Grover said, particularly regarding the British Household Panel Survey data, which they collected from the same households annually for 19 consecutive years. “This allowed us to check for selection effects, such as if married people become happier or if happier people become married.”

Couples who aren’t necessarily married but are living together are also significantly happier, according to Helliwell, senior fellow and co-director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research’s Program for Social Interactions, Identity and Well-Being. The CIFAR, according to its website, is a Candadian-based global research organization that focuses on improving human health, transforming technology, building strong societies and sustaining the Earth. 

“Our results were parallel [to the married individuals] for those living together,” Helliwell said. “Thus the happiness benefits appear to be flowing principally from the supports provided by partners and friends, rather than the specific institutional form under which these supportive relations are formed.”

Another result of their study showed that married couples who consider each other as their best friends felt even happier than those who were only married. 

The study’s results stress the importance of supportive friendships, Helliwell said, and they aren’t confined specifically to the institution of marriage, nor even to any generation of people. The opportunities for developing supportive relationships are available to anyone, he said, and millennials in particular should not let economic or occupational pressures restrict them from making those connections.

Anna Coleman, a recent Pitt graduate, said she feels ready to take the leap with her fiancé, Bill Fabrizi.

“We both have good jobs with long-term potential, though we’re still finding our way into adulthood,” Coleman, who graduated with a degree in environmental studies in 2014, said. “But we’re figuring it out together.” 

The two became engaged in the spring of 2014 and are now planning their wedding. Despite feeling financially secure enough to get married, Coleman said the expenses of the wedding are already starting to become a little terrifying.

“We don’t want to go into debt this early in life,” Fabrizi, who graduated from Penn State in 2013, said. “That forced us to make tough decisions and cut down on a lot of things other people do for weddings.”

Fabrizi and Coleman had a lot of discussions about spending and saving philosophies even before the engagement.

“Living a comfortable lifestyle is just plain easier with two incomes, and things like being able to share in each others’ work benefits and other financial perks of marriage,” Coleman said. “Marriage is a financial partnership just as much as a romantic partnership.”

As for the stigma of getting married young, Coleman said she plainly disagrees with it. A lot of millennials think that “getting married equals giving something up. Like you can’t go out and party, or you can’t travel the world, or do all the fun things unmarried people are supposedly doing all the time,” she said.

“[I]t’s corny, but now I get to do all those fun things with an automatic co-pilot,” Coleman said.  “It’s really not a loss at all.”


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