Unhealthy Behavior and Marriage

Muh-Chung Lin, University of Chicago

The gains on health for the married people have long been documented in social sciences. Nevertheless, the precise mechanisms through which marriage improves health are rarely explored. This study examines how marriage influences health by shunning unhealthy behaviors—reductions in excessive drinking. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), we are able to control for a large number of baseline variables. Additionally, we calculated propensity scores and used them in the frameworks of regression analysis and matching. We performed diagnostics to assess the validity of propensity scores and adopted a simple control function approach for robustness tests. After procedures to account for selection, results suggest that married people are less likely to engage in hazardous drinking. The types of marriage matter: formal marriage has stronger effects than cohabitation. Union history also matters: people with more cohabitation union experiences are more likely to drink excessively.

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Presented in Session 121: Family and Health over the Life Course