Trajectories of Life Satisfaction Before, Upon, and After Divorce: Evidence From a New Matching Approach

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The new DIAL working paper by Scheppingen and Leopold Trajectories of Life Satisfaction Before, Upon, and After Divorce: Evidence from a New Matching Approach analyses how divorce influences life satisfaction. The results indicate that life satisfaction declines among divorcees, and that some declines last at least five years after the divorce.

Van Scheppingen and Leopold analyse trajectories of life satisfaction with data from the longitudinal German Socio-Economic Panel Study. They match individuals who experience a divorce with individuals as similar to them as possible but who do not experience a divorce. By comparing these two groups, the authors can take into account other marriage-related factors that influence life satisfaction as well as the general decline in life satisfaction that tends to take place after marriage.

The results show that life satisfaction indeed declines more among divorcees than individuals who remain married. This relative decline starts years before divorce and is most pronounced at the time of the divorce. Life satisfaction rises again after divorce but remains at lower levels as compared to married individuals. The change in life satisfaction is not the same among all divorcees, indicating that some show full recovery, as others remain at lower levels of life satisfaction until years after the divorce.