Does lone motherhood indeed decrease women’s subjective well-being?

Anna Matysiak, Warsaw School of Economics
Anna Baranowska, Warsaw School of Economics
Monika Mynarska, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University

This paper contributes to the discussion on the effects of single motherhood on happiness. We use a mixed-method approach. First, based on in-depth interviews with lone mothers who gave birth out of wedlock , we explore mechanisms through which children may influence mothers’ subjective well-being. In the second step we analyze panel survey data to quantify this influence. Our results leave no doubt that raising a child outside marriage poses many challenges, but at the same time parenthood has some positive influence on lone mother’s life. Our qualitative evidence shows that children are a central point in unmarried women’s life, and that many lifetime decisions are taken with consideration of the child’s welfare, including escaping from pathological relationships. Our quantitative evidence shows that although the general level of happiness among unmarried women is lower than among their married counterparts, raising a child does not have a detrimental effect on their subjective well-being.

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Presented in Session 16: Human capital and well-being