Effects of Mental Health on Couple Relationship Status
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.
We are grateful to the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University for funding support, to Taťána Čepková and Farzana Razack for excellent research assistance, and to Cynthia Bansak and to Karen Conway and the other participants at University of New Hampshire Department of Economics seminar series for helpful comments. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.