A direct test for utility interdependence in marriage
Becker’s theory of marriage predicts that partners will have interdependent
utility (or wellbeing). The paper tests this in a new way. It draws upon
longitudinal information on self-evaluated life satisfaction from married and
cohabiting union couples living in the UK over the period 1996-2004.
Conditioning on unobserved individual heterogeneity and omitted variables
bias in the life satisfaction equation, I find strong evidence of a positive and
statistically well-defined relationship in the reported life satisfaction scores
between married couples for the observed period. Similar results are obtained
for the cohabiting union sample in the dataset. These findings support the
sociological perspectives that there may be wider “nonmarketable” benefits to
marriage than the economic explanations of specialization and diversifying
labour income risk.