Smells like partnered spirit

Kevin Lewis

January 06, 2018

Olfactory cues from romantic partners and strangers influence women’s responses to stress
Marlise Hofer et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, January 2018, Pages 1-9


The scent of another person can activate memories, trigger emotions, and spark romantic attraction; however, almost nothing is known about whether and how human scents influence responses to stress. In the current study, 96 women were randomly assigned to smell one of three scents (their romantic partner’s, a stranger’s, or a neutral scent) and exposed to an acute stressor (Trier Social Stress Test). Perceived stress and cortisol were measured continuously throughout the study (5 and 7 times, respectively). Perceived stress was reduced in women who were exposed to their partner’s scent. This reduction was observed during stress anticipation and stress recovery. Cortisol levels were elevated in women who were exposed to a stranger’s scent. This elevation was observed throughout stress anticipation, peak stress, and stress recovery. The current work speaks to the critical role of human olfactory cues in social communication and reveals that social scents can impact both psychological and physiological reactions to stress.

The impact of divorce laws on the equilibrium in the marriage market
Ana Reynoso
Yale Working Paper, November 2017


This paper investigates how the adoption of unilateral divorce affects the gains from marriage and who marries whom. Exploiting variation in the timing of adoption across the US states, I first show that unilateral divorce increases assortative matching among newlyweds. To explain the link between divorce laws and matching patterns, I specify an equilibrium model of household formation, labor supply, private and public consumption, and divorce over the life cycle. Matching decisions depend on the anticipated welfare from marriage and divorce. The model has two key features (consistent with the data). First, working spouses whose partners do not work accumulate relatively more human capital during their lifetime, a fact that improves their outside value of divorce. Second, divorcees cannot sustain cooperation in public goods expenditures (interpreted as children’s welfare), leading to inefficiencies that are mostly harmful to the top educated. Under unilateral divorce, the value of divorce becomes a credible threat that shifts the bargaining power in marriage, making both household production and marriage less attractive. This pushes the marriage market equilibrium towards more positive sorting in education and lower welfare, particularly for the highest educated. I estimate the model using data from households that form and live under the pre-reform mutual consent divorce regime. Using the estimates, I then introduce unilateral divorce and solve for the new equilibrium. I find sizable equilibrium effects. First, the correlation in spousal education increases and people, particularly educated females, become more likely to remain single. Second, the gains from marriage decrease for the least and the most educated. Lastly, the marital gains from acquiring a college or higher degree decreases for women and men under unilateral divorce. These results reflect previously overlooked consequences of reducing barriers to divorce.

Unilateral Divorce and Time Allocation in the United States
Katie Genadek
Feminist Economics, Winter 2018, Pages 63-87


Using time-diary data from the Time Use in Economic and Social Accounts (TUESA) 1975–76, which covers heterosexual couples in the United States, this paper analyzes the relationship between a state’s adoption of unilateral divorce and couples’ time allocation. Married women in states with unilateral divorce spend less time on core housework than those in states without unilateral divorce, and married men contribute to a greater share of housework. This paper also uses cross-state and time variation in divorce law adoption by including additional data from the early 1990s to estimate the effect of a state’s adoption of unilateral divorce on daily time use. The analysis confirms the findings for women in the 1970s: the availability of unilateral divorce substantially decreases married women’s time spent on housework. The results suggest that the adoption of unilateral divorce law shifts the relative bargaining power within heterosexual married households to women.

Socioeconomic variation in the association of marriage with depressive symptoms
Daniel Carlson & Ben Lennox Kail
Social Science Research, forthcoming


Although the health-relevant resources that marriage is argued to provide vary by socioeconomic status (SES), little research has examined whether the association of marriage with psychological well-being varies by SES. Focusing on depressive symptoms as an outcome and using a two-stage Heckit procedure with multilevel modeling, results from analysis of four waves of data (n = 4340 person-waves) from the American Changing Lives Survey (ACL) shows that differences in depressive symptoms between never married and married adults varies by adjusted household income. Depressive symptoms are highest among the never married, and differences from the married greatest, at the lowest levels of income. As income increases these differences are eliminated. The interaction between income and marriage is partially mediated by financial security, self-efficacy, and social support from friends and relatives. The implications of these findings for U.S. marriage promotion policies are discussed.

How’s Life at Home? New Evidence on Marriage and the Set Point for Happiness
Shawn Grover & John Helliwell
Journal of Happiness Studies, forthcoming


Subjective well-being research has often found that marriage is positively correlated with well-being. Some have argued that this correlation may be result of happier people being more likely to marry. Others have presented evidence suggesting that the well-being benefits of marriage are short-lasting. Using data from the British Household Panel Survey, we control individual pre-marital well-being levels and find that the married are still more satisfied, suggesting a causal effect at all stages of the marriage, from pre-nuptual bliss to marriages of long-duration. Using new data from the United Kingdom’s Annual Population Survey, we find that the married have a less deep U-shape in life satisfaction across age groups than do the unmarried, indicating that marriage may help ease the causes of the mid-life dip in life satisfaction and that the benefits of marriage are unlikely to be short-lived. We explore friendship as a mechanism which could help explain a causal relationship between marriage and life satisfaction, and find that well-being effects of marriage are about twice as large for those whose spouse is also their best friend.

Marriage, Family Structure, and Maternal Employment Trajectories
Christine Percheski
Social Forces, forthcoming


Previous studies of maternal employment have focused on marital status differences, but the rise in nonmarital cohabiting parenthood problematizes the simple dichotomy between married and unmarried mothers. Theory and previous research yield mixed predictions as to whether cohabiting mothers’ employment will more closely resemble that of married mothers or lone unmarried mothers. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, I examine how maternal employment varies across family structures (married parents, cohabiting unmarried parents, and lone unmarried mothers) in the five years after a birth for mothers living in urban areas in the United States. Descriptive statistics show few differences in maternal employment patterns by family structure. Controlling for human capital, however, I find that cohabiting mothers return to work earlier and work more than married mothers. Cohabiting mothers and lone mothers show very similar employment patterns. Additionally, cohabiting mothers who later marry have employment trajectories that are similar to married mothers, whereas married mothers who divorce increase their employment hours. Family characteristics, partner characteristics, and gender attitudes do not explain employment differences between married and cohabiting mothers. I speculate that cohabiting mothers work more than married mothers as a hedge against economic deprivation given high union dissolution rates for cohabiting couples.

I like that you feel my pain, but I love that you feel my joy: Empathy for a partner’s negative versus positive emotions independently affect relationship quality
Michael Andreychik
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, forthcoming


Given the myriad ways in which close relationships impact human well-being, it is important to understand the factors that contribute to healthy relationship functioning. One such factor is the extent to which partners empathize with each other’s emotional experiences. To date however, research examining empathy’s relevance for social relationships has focused overwhelmingly on empathy for others’ specifically negative emotions. Building on recent scholarship demonstrating the separability of empathy for others’ negative versus positive emotions, the present work argues that both of these empathic capacities contribute to relationship quality and that they do so via different pathways. A first study showed that whereas perceptions of a partner’s negative empathy and positive empathy were each independently associated with relationship quality, this association was substantially stronger for positive empathy. A second, experimental study demonstrated independent causal effects of negative empathy and positive empathy and showed that these effects were mediated by different mechanisms. These results suggest that although having a partner who empathizes with one’s negative emotions is good for relationships, having a partner who (also) empathizes with one’s positive emotions may carry even greater benefits.

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