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On Marriage and Happiness

It is easy for a successful writer to advise that career success isn’t that important. Would a failed writer agree?

· 8 min read
On Marriage and Happiness
Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash

In July, Sam Peltzman, an economist at the University of Chicago, published a study showing a strong connection between marriage and happiness. “Being married,” Peltzman wrote, “is the most important differentiator with a 30-percentage point happy-unhappy gap over the unmarried. … No subsequent population categorization [black vs. white, young vs. old, rich vs. poor, etc] will yield so large a difference in happiness across so many people.”

Many cultural commentators quickly picked up on this study and began urging Americans, especially young people, to focus more on finding a spouse than on finding a good career. In the New York Times, David Brooks wrote:

My strong advice is to obsess less about your career and to think a lot more about marriage. Please respect the truism that if you have a great career and a crappy marriage you will be unhappy, but if you have a great marriage and a crappy career you will be happy. … This is not just softhearted sentimentality I’m offering. There are mountains of evidence to show that intimate relationships, not career, are at the core of life, and those intimate relationships will have a downstream effect on everything else you do.

The reader may object that Brooks has enjoyed a hugely successful career publishing bestselling books and filing copy at some of the nation’s most prestigious publications. What would he know about the life of someone with a crappy career? Would a failed writer with a successful marriage agree with his assessment? As it turns out, yes.

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