by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Both religion and egalitarianism have something to offer those seeking a happy marriage in a world of shifting mores—though religion leads to more children—a new report on international perspectives on marital happiness shows.
The report, a joint project of the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution, uses data from two surveys of respondents in eleven countries: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Canada, Colombia, France, Ireland, Mexico, Peru, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The authors set out to examine the now standard bromide that progressive, secular social values lead to happier marriages.
As study authors W. Bradford Wilcox, Jason S. Carroll, and Laurie DeRose wrote in the New York Times, the recipe for a happy marriage is either being religious or being egalitarian—those stuck in the middle are consistently the worst off. …
… Combining the two categories generated by yes/no answers to this question with the three categories, the authors find what they characterize as a “j-curve”: the more progressive, irreligious couples are happier than the mixed traditional and progressive couples, but the religious couples are the happiest of all. In other words, an irreligious, non-progressive couple is less happy than a progressive one, but both are less happy than a religious couple.
This dichotomy between the religious traditionalist and the progressive egalitarian persists across other findings in the report. For example, both are less likely to engage in intimate partner violence, and both are more likely to share decision-making responsibilities.
The study’s authors are quick to emphasize that there is not necessarily a causal relationship between religious or progressive values, and marital happiness, only a correlation. Nonetheless, these findings suggest two different models for how to run a successful, happy marriage.