NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Effects of Mental Health on Couple Relationship Status

Nancy E. Reichman, Hope Corman, Kelly Noonan

NBER Working Paper No. 19164
Issued in June 2013
NBER Program(s):   CH   HE

We exploit the occurrence of postpartum depression (PPD), which has a random component according to the medical community, to estimate causal effects of a salient form of mental illness on couples' relationship status. We estimate single-equation models as well as bivariate probit models that address the endogeneity of PPD. We find that this relatively prevalent mental illness reduces the probability the couples are married (by 22-24%) as well the probability that they are living together (married or cohabiting) (by 24-26%) three years after the birth of the child. Models stratified by relationship status at the time of the birth indicate that PPD makes it more likely that unions dissolve (particularly among baseline cohabitors) and less likely that unions are formed (particularly among baseline non-cohabitors). The findings contribute to the literature on the effects of mental illness on relationships and to the broader literature on socioeconomic status and health.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19164

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