The Case for Marriage with Professor Linda Waite

Episode: 181
Originally Aired: November 2, 2016
Topic: The Case for Marriage with Professor Linda Waite

The Lange Money Hour - Where Smart Money Talks

The Lange Money Hour: Where Smart Money Talks
James Lange, CPA/Attorney
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  1. Introduction of Linda Waite, University of Chicago
  2. Children Lose in Divorce, Financially, Materially and Emotionally
  3. Single-Parent Families Have Fewer Resources, Less Parental Time
  4. Parent’s Marriage to a New Partner Is Highly Stressful for Children
  5. Less Is Required From Unmarried Couples Who Live Together
  6. Young Children Can Be at Risk When a Mother Cohabitates
  7. Cohabitation Is Rare Among Older Couples ‘Living Apart Together’
  8. Married Couples Have Many Times More Assets Than Unmarried People
  9. Living Separately Is Cheaper, But Not by Much
  10. Married People Are Less Depressed, in Better Health, Have Better Sex
  11. Wives Manage the Health Care of Their Husbands
  12. Divorce, Poor Marriage Affect Woman’s Health More Than Men’s Health

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Welcome to The Lange Money Hour: Where Smart Money Talks with expert advice from Jim Lange, Pittsburgh-based CPA, attorney, and retirement and estate planning expert. Jim is also the author of Retire Secure! Pay Taxes Later. To find out more about his book, his practice, Lange Financial Group, and how to secure Jim as a speaker for your next event, visit his website at Now get ready to talk smart money.

1. Introduction of Linda Waite, University of Chicago

Dan Weinberg: Welcome to The Lange Money Hour.  I’m Dan Weinberg, along with CPA and attorney, Jim Lange, and our guest this evening is Linda Waite.  Linda is the Lucy Flower Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago and Senior Fellow at NORC (an independent  research organization affiliated with the University of Chicago), where she directs the Center on Aging.  Her research focuses on sexuality, social connections and health at older ages.  One of her current projects develops and tests a reconceptualized model of health at older ages.  Linda is also the author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier & Better Off Financially, and we’re going to touch on some of those issues tonight.  We’ll discuss the five myths about marriage, the happiness and health gaps between married and unmarried people, the relationship between marriage and money — for instance, how married people spend and save differently than single people — and should people get married for the money.  It’s sure to be a great hour of conversation, so let’s get right to it by saying good evening to Jim Lange and Linda Waite.

Jim Lange:  Good evening, Linda.

Linda Waite:  Hi.  Nice to be here.

Jim Lange:  So as you may or may not know, I have written extensively on the financial aspects of marriage, and specifically talking about areas like Social Security and marital benefits for Social Security, inheriting an IRA from a spouse as opposed to inheriting an IRA from a non-spouse, and I have, I think, some convincing financial reasons, in terms of taxes and Social Security, about why people should get married.  But as my career matures, I am not only interested in my clients’ money, I’m interested in my clients’ happiness.  So, for example, I had Jonathan Clements on, and Jonathan Clements wrote a book, which I’ll try to summarize in about two sentences, that said buy experiences, don’t buy things, because he thinks that you can be happier if you buy experiences.  And one of the reasons I was attracted to your book, which I just think is a terrific book, and the book, by the way, is The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier & Better Off Financially, by Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher, is I was hoping we could explore some of the, let’s call it, happiness levels of marriage, and when I was reading your book, one thing that really kind of just smacked me in the face is you really did a great job of literally smashing some myths, and what I’d like to do if we could to start is talk about some of the myths that you challenge, and the first myth is that divorce is usually the best answer for kids when a marriage becomes unhappy.  So, I’ve heard this a bunch of times, and I am familiar with the Albertson studies, but I thought I would leave it up to the expert to talk about … and let’s say we’re not talking about a situation where there’s physical abuse, but let’s just say the marriage isn’t going so well, but there are some younger children involved, and people are saying, “Well …” In fact, our own mayor, Luke Ravenstahl, was saying that he was getting divorced for the benefit of his infant child.  Is marriage the best thing for kids when a marriage becomes unhappy, or is divorce the best thing?

2. Children Lose in Divorce, Financially, Materially and Emotionally

Linda Waite:  The answer is: It depends.  It turns out that family researchers who followed married couples, married couples with kids, over time and saw some of them divorce and some of them stay together, that a very substantial minority of marriages, maybe 40 percent, were not unhappy.  They were not marriages marked by high conflict before the divorce, and when those marriages end, it’s worse for kids because, to them, it comes out of nowhere, their world just ends, and all they do is lose.  They lose their parents, they lose their home, they lose often access to their father and his resources.  If they’re with a lot of conflict, then it’s a mixed situation for kids.  They benefit from being away from the conflict, but they lose because their world is turned upside down, and because they lose access to two parents working together.

Jim Lange:  Well, one of the things that I liked about your book is that you don’t just pop off and say things.  You actually support this with the research.  Can you back up some of the things that you’ve said?  For example, in Chapter 9, you talk about some of the latest research, or is what your answer is is summarizing the latest research?  Because I can very easily picture listeners sitting there listening, “Oh, no, that doesn’t sound right to me.”  And one of the things that I liked about what you’re saying is — and I’m actually on your Chapter 9 right now — you have lots of studies and you cite different studies, but could you be a little bit more specific about, let’s say, either a particular study … the one I always think of is the Albertson study, where I believe that they tracked kids for 40 years, and based on things like the children’s own longevity in their marriage, the children’s own longevity in their careers, in different ways of measuring happiness, that the kids of the people who stayed married usually were more successful.

3. Single-Parent Families Have Fewer Resources, Less Parental Time

Linda Waite:  Yes, there are a number of studies, and all of them, really the only way you can understand the social processes is to follow families over time.  A wonderful researcher, Judith Wallerstein, who had a clinical practice in Marin County (Calif.), started doing counseling with families going through a divorce, and then started a study where she interviewed everybody in the family, both parents and the children, and then she followed up a number of times over the next 25 years to see what happened, and that’s of their survey studies that follow thousands of families.  Married couples are better for children because … there are a whole bunch of reasons, but there are two adults who have the same investment in the children, who are working together for their well-being.  So, you know, raising children is an enormous amount of work, and it takes an enormous amount of emotional resources and time and skill and commitment and investment and money, and families with one parent, or divorced parents, have fewer resources, less parental time.  Two parents who are often working at cross purposes, they often, when there’s a divorce, the children lose resources from the grandparents and the extended kin, especially if they lose contact with their father, which is another tremendous loss.  And if parents are unhappy but stable, and they’re not taking it out on each other in front of the kids and they’re able to parent pretty well together — it doesn’t have to be terrific — then the kids are better off if they stay together.  The other thing is, you know, a marriage that’s having trouble now doesn’t necessarily stay a marriage that’s having trouble.  Many times, what Maggie Gallagher and I found, is that families are having a hard time for some reason that’s not forever.  For example, the one person becomes unemployed, and that’s a huge strain.  But mostly, they don’t stay unemployed.  Or somebody is in a career place where everybody has to work all the time and it’s really hard and you have young children and it’s really hard, but that passes.  Or somebody has a health crisis, or they work things out.  They have a difference of opinion, a different way of looking at things, some issue, and they figure out a way to work around it.  So, I guess that’s the quick, or maybe not so quick, answer.  When and why.

Jim Lange:  All right, well, no.  That is very helpful.  But it is interesting.  I kind of didn’t want this to be about the money-type stuff like Social Security and pensions and IRAs and estate planning, but it has to have an impact that if you have two people who … and let’s say a husband, a wife and two kids, and maybe they’re sharing an apartment or maybe they’re sharing a home, and now, all of a sudden, they are not together.  So, you have to have another home.  So, just by definition, there’s a lot less money available for the couple.

Linda Waite:  Absolutely.

Jim Lange:  And that’s going to create lots of strains.  There’s going to be different babysitting issues, and that it’s going to be much, much harder, and actually, we had an interview with a financial advisor, and he said, unless you’re really miserable, the money is so important for staying together.  Now, he was talking about for older people, but even now, we’re talking about with young children, you’re still better off, or at least the children are better off, just staying in that marriage, and, as you said, it might get better.

Linda Waite:  The other thing that people forget is if you have children and you get divorced, you have to continue to deal with your spouse until those children are grown, and getting divorced is not actually going to make it easier.  It probably makes it harder.  And if each of you form different relationships that pull you and your resources in other directions, then that makes it harder still to co-parent effectively.

Jim Lange:  All right, well, what if you don’t have children, all right?  So, maybe one of you doesn’t have children or maybe both of you don’t … in my own family’s case, I have a brother who is … I’m actually going to fly to Hawaii for his fourth wedding.  He’s never had children.  The woman he’s marrying does have children.  But what if there are not children involved, or let’s say that there is one spouse that doesn’t have children, what is the, let’s say, argument for marriage, let’s say, taking children out of the equation, or if only one parent, if there’s only one member of the couple that has children and the other one doesn’t.

4. Parent’s Marriage to a New Partner Is Highly Stressful for Children

Linda Waite:  Well, it’s clear that any big family change is hard on children.  It’s hard on adults too, but they’re choosing to do it and the kids are not choosing to do it.  It’s being foisted on them.  So, when their mother or father marries somebody new, that’s a huge stressor for children.  You know, you have to set up a new world, a new way of functioning as a family, and that’s a strain.  Eventually, over time, you know, you figure things out and you have set up a new way of doing things.  So, if that breaks apart again, then the child has had three traumas: one from the original divorce, one from the formation of the new family, and one from the breakup of the new family.  And the more of these there are in a child’s life, the worse they do.

Jim Lange:  What about the newer area, which is, let’s say, childless couples?  And I think that there is an ever-growing percentage of young couples who choose not to have children.  What is the argument of getting married as opposed to just living together?  And again, let’s take away the financial aspect, and let’s say that a couple says, “Yes, we’re in a long-term committed relationship, and what is the purpose of getting married?”  And let’s leave money out of this one.  What would you say is the difference between a long-term committed couple who is married and one who is not married?

5. Less Is Required From Unmarried Couples Who Live Together

Linda Waite:  There are a number of different dimensions to this.  First of all, the people who choose a long-term committed, unmarried relationship have a different bargain in mind.  It’s looser, it’s less all-encompassing, it encompasses fewer aspect of their life.  So, what I’ve seen in my own research is that if you compare cohabiters and married people who are otherwise pretty similar in their main characteristics, the cohabiting people seem to want a partnership that requires less of them.  So, cohabiting couples are less likely to share friends, less likely to share social events.  They’re definitely less likely to be involved with each other’s families.  And even though almost all cohabiting couples say that they have a deal that they’ll be sexually exclusive, they are less likely to actually be sexually exclusive.  Many times, there’s sort of a bargain that “We’ll do this as long as it works for both of us, and if it stops working, then we’ll break it off.”  That can mean that if somebody gets sick, or if somebody loses their job, or has some other bad outcome, the other person feels free to just say, “You know, you were a lot of fun when you were fun, but you’re not fun anymore.”  And that means that people can rely on their cohabiting partner for much less than married people can, and they can’t rely on their partner’s family for anything.  So, people who are cohabiting, unless they have immediate plans to marry, and they’ve never been married before and neither one of them has kids, are looking for a different deal, and they may be perfectly happy with the deal that they get, but it’s not marriage, it’s something else.

Jim Lange:  Do you know if there’s any studies measuring the happiness level of cohabiting couples versus married couples that don’t have children?

Linda Waite:  Yes.  So, we have to separate the cohabiting couples into those who were just living together for the year before they get married, but the wedding’s planned and the hall’s rented and they’re working on their house, and neither one of them has ever been married or ever had kids.  Those people actually look pretty much like already married people, and there’s been quite a bit of work that’s very interesting.  Women with children from another relationship who enter a cohabitation are much less happy than anybody else anywhere than married women, than cohabiting women and other circumstances because they know, I think, that their children are affected by this relationship, and they don’t know where it’s going to go.  You know, they know their children will be damaged if this relationship breaks up, but they don’t have any confidence really that it will stay together.

Jim Lange:  Isn’t that also the greatest cause for violence to children, which is, let’s say, the non-married partner of a cohabiting mom who has children from a prior marriage, and the boyfriend beats up the children?

6. Young Children Can Be at Risk When a Mother Cohabitates

Linda Waite:  Absolutely, and it would be if the boyfriend’s not the biological father because you could have a cohabiting couple, and there are many who have children together, and that’s a completely different story, but yes, a woman with a young child who brings another man into the home, in a not necessarily really considered relationship, is putting her children at risk.

Jim Lange:  All right, let’s go on the older side because I think a lot of our listeners skew older, and again, I’ll make it personal.  My father-in-law, he is a terrific guy.  He had a wonderful career.  He was married to the woman that he married till the day she died, and he took care of her.  He was a terrific guy.  He then remarried and his second wife, unfortunately, developed Alzheimer’s and he stuck by her until she died, and then, I think at this point he was, let’s say, in his, I think, something like mid-80s or something like that, and he met another woman.  But this time, for whatever reason, they chose not to get married.  Now they live together.  They each interestingly have a house in New Jersey and a house in Florida and they go back and forth to their houses.  They’re enjoying, let’s say, some of the financial benefits because he used to have a house in New Jersey and a house in Florida, so he used to have to keep up two households.  Now, one of them kept the house in Florida and one of them kept the house in New Jersey, so they’re getting some of the financial benefits.  What would you say about older couples who are cohabiting?  Would you think that that is a good idea in general, or do you still think that really, that’s a different bargain than if … and let’s even take money out of it.  Let’s even assume that they got married, that they each have money from their own respective families and that they would get a prenuptial agreement that would protect the money for their biological children, their respective biological children.  Do you have any opinion about older couples cohabiting or getting married?

7. Cohabitation Is Rare Among Older Couples ‘Living Apart Together’

Linda Waite:  I would say … and I’m actually doing a study on social relationships, sexuality and health at older ages, and what we see in our study, which includes people 57 to 85 when we first talked to them in 2005, that there are very few cohabiters.  It’s only about, I don’t know, 5 percent of the people on our study are cohabiting.  There are actually more people who have a romantic partner they don’t live with.  So if you think about ways you can organize your life if you’re older and single, we have to consider what people call — I’m sorry, it’s not very tidy —  living apart together.  So people keep their own place.  They just, you know, spend some evenings together, stay over some of the time, don’t comingle assets, don’t necessarily comingle activities or friends, so they can keep their independence.  What the literature suggests is that many older women don’t want to take on the care of another older man.  They don’t want to be providing, and maybe this is one of your father-in-law’s considerations, he doesn’t want to have to take care of another woman while she dies.  And if they’re just living together, he can say to her kids, “You know, I just can’t do this.  You’re going to have to come online here.  I’m moving back to Florida.”  So, I think it depends on whether they have religious values that would dictate marriage, whether they want to make a commitment to each other that they would support each other until death, or whether they want to say very explicitly, “I can’t do this again.  I’m too old.  You have children.  I’ll never get in the way of that, but when you need hands-on care, I can’t provide it to you.  Just so we’re clear.”

Jim Lange:  I’ll tell you what you just said that was very interesting to me, is that it sounds like, and I think you used the age group from 57 to 85, that there aren’t a lot of older couples who are cohabiting, and that they tend to either have this … I forget the term that you called it … living apart together …

Linda Waite:  I called it living apart together.

Jim Lange:  Right.

Linda Waite:  What we call it in the study I’m doing, which is called the National Social Life Health and Aging Project, we call it romantic partners.

Jim Lange:  OK.  But this is a committed couple, so what you’re saying is that this is actually relatively rare, only 5 percent among, let’s say, people who would call themselves a committed couple.

Linda Waite:  That’s the cohabiters.

Jim Lange:  OK.

Linda Waite:  People who live with somebody, yeah.  And out of 3,000 people in our study, there were about 135 who were living with somebody they weren’t married to in a marriage-like relationship.

Jim Lange:   The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier & Better Off Financially, by Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher, and one of the things that I like about Linda is that she is a legitimate college professor, a legitimate researcher, and not a pop-psychology person who has some opinions, pops off and doesn’t have anything to support it.

The reason I was particularly interested in Linda’s topic is because I have written actually two peer-review articles on the finances of marriage, but I pretty much stuck to the areas of Social Security and marital benefits of Social Security.  I talked about the survivor marital benefits of Social Security.  I talked about inheritance taxes.  I talked about what happens to an IRA in a retirement plan if you leave it to a spouse or a non-spouse.  And I actually wrote two books that were actually aimed towards the same-sex community, which was, to some extent, let’s say the financial case for marriage, and by the way, the argument, frankly, it didn’t matter if they were same-sex or opposite-sex.  In fact, my brother, who I had referred to earlier, I very much wanted him to get married for financial purposes.  He’s deeply in love with his, right now, fiancé, and he wants to provide for her, and he has a great record for Social Security, which, if they get married, she could get half of, and then when he dies, she’ll get the whole thing, and if he dies as a married man, the finances will be much better for her for tax reasons, and I put that pretty clearly in, again, two peer-review articles and two books geared towards same-sex couples.  But you have a different approach to the financial benefits of being married.  So, Linda, could you talk to our audience a little bit about some of the financial benefits, some which might be obvious and some which might not be obvious?

8. Married Couples Have Many Times More Assets Than Unmarried People

Linda Waite:  Sure.  It’s actually pretty amazing when you look at people’s assets, you know, the equity they have in a home, their savings, their pension, retirement benefits.  Married people have many times more saved than people with their characteristics who have never been married, who are divorced or separated, and that’s even when you say, “OK, married people have more, but there are two of them divided in half.” They still have many times more.  There are a number of reasons for this, and they’re separate but they work together.  The first thing is that married men are more likely to work more hours and earn more than men with exactly the same characteristics as they have who are not married, and why that happens is very well-studied.  They’re better workers.  They are more often there on time.  They’re more focused on their job.  They’re more willing to do jobs that maybe are unpleasant, but pay more.  They’re just good workers.  And more than that, making money is important to them because they need to support their family.  Married people act as sort of an insurance pool for each other.  Economists who work on this have put a dollar figure on it, of course, being economists, and it’s pretty huge.  So, if I became unemployed, unable to work, disabled, heaven forbid, then my husband would support me.  If he became disabled, I would support him.  And think of what disability insurance costs.  This is an enormous financial benefit.  The third reason that married people have more money is they spend differently.  If you think about single people, single men, single women, they tend to have lives that involve a lot more eating out with friends, traveling with friends, spending on clothes in the case of women, spending on cars in the case of men, and really no huge incentive to, say, buy a house, and less incentive to save for retirement.  So they just save less.  The other, and this is sort of connected, is that we know that their economies of scale in living together, in living with people, so one of the reasons people have roommates is it saves them money.  But married people can really live the same quality life for about 65 percent each of what it would cost them if they lived alone.  They only need one TV.  They only need to heat the place once.  They only need one living-room couch.  So, just the fact that they’re living together, and that would work for cohabiting couples too, or roommates, they have money to save and can have the same kind of life.  The problem with living with roommates is finding people you get along with, that you find that you want to have in your kitchen.  So, I think it’s easier when you’re married to somebody, you can iron out your differences because you’ve got a long time to do it.  Married people also specialize, and it doesn’t have to be gender specific, but if one of you loves to cook and one of you loves to grocery shop, then you can specialize and do a better job at it, and cooking for two really doesn’t take any more time than cooking for one, but it saves the other person the time that they would’ve cooked and maybe they can fix the furnace or manage the bills.  So, married people produce more because they can specialize, and it’s safer to specialize if you’re married because you know you’re going to be doing it for a while.  That’s all I can think of right now.  It’s a lot of stuff.

Jim Lange:  I’m going to go back to the 65 percent that you mentioned because that is important, and maybe it’s something that I run into when I’m doing estate planning and retirement planning for somebody.  So, let’s say a couple comes in and they are currently spending $100,000, and the goal is to make sure that both members of the couple can maintain their lifestyle for the rest of both of their lives, and one of them dies, and so somebody might say, “Well gee, if you’re gone, that means that you’re only going to need half as much money, so you’re only going to need $50,000.”

Linda Waite:  Yeah, but it doesn’t work that way.

9. Living Separately Is Cheaper, But Not by Much

Jim Lange:  Right, that’s what I think that I’m getting is that, no, you should count on needing $65,000 so that you really can’t count on that big of a reduction, and frankly, I was even thinking it was even less of a reduction than that.  But apparently, you didn’t make up that number 65 percent.  That did come from somewhere.

Linda Waite:  It’s different, though, when you’re thinking that two people could live separately or live together.  Most of those widows or widowers are in a house that really they bought when they had a family, or that they bought for two people.  But if you’re a single person, you could be in a smaller house or in an apartment.  If you always thought you were going to be by yourself, you wouldn’t have a big house in the suburbs.  You’d have a small apartment in the city.  So, going from, especially as an older adult, a married couple in a house they’ve been in for a long time to a widow, she doesn’t want to move out of that house.  So, she’s got a house that’s too big for her, that’s too expensive, that she really can’t downsize without a lot of emotional and maybe other kinds of loss.

Jim Lange:  So, in that case, there might not be any substantial, in effect, savings because it’s the same house.

Linda Waite:  Well, maybe food and clothes.  That’s about it.

Jim Lange:  Food and clothes, OK.

Linda Waite:  And maybe one less car.

Jim Lange:  And again, a lot of people have different opinions about marriage, but one of the great things about Linda is that she actually isn’t popping off.  She is a very respected college professor and her book is filled with citations to well-documented research.

So, Linda, in the time that we have left, ultimately, as I age and grow in my career, I become less and less interested in people’s money and more and more interested in their happiness level, and I think I had mentioned earlier that Jonathan Clements says one of the best ways to become a happier person is to buy experiences, don’t buy things.  So, your premise is that married people live happier and healthier lives, and also financially, but I think we’ve covered the financial part.  Why are married people happier, and why are married people healthier?

10. Married People Less Depressed, in Better Health, Have Better Sex

Linda Waite:  There are a number of reasons.  I think married people are happier for a bunch of reasons.  One is they’re less likely to be lonely.  So you have a built-in companion that you chose, that you chose because you like the person, you love the person, and so you have somebody to spend time with, and having other people around and being attached to other people is really fundamental to human beings.  We evolved in small social groups.  We have developed a need for interaction with other people, and we also are a species that sort of invented monogamy.  We’ve always, always formed pairs.  And so, we’re happiest when we’re in a pair with somebody we have affection for who shares our values and our life and also has our back, somebody who wants what’s best for us almost as much as we do.  Marriage and being in love and in a couple in this way gives your life purpose that it wouldn’t have otherwise because you want to do things for your spouse.  They need you in some way, whether it’s to facilitate their social life because they’re sort of shy or to come with them on these wonderful trips that they’ve planned so that they can have the experience of making somebody else happy.  A lot of things about being with another person gives life meaning and richness and reduces loneliness and social isolation.  Married people are less likely to be depressed than people like them who aren’t married.  They’re less likely to be lonely.  They’re more likely to have a purpose in life.  And also, married people on average have much more active and better sex lives, which tends to make people happy.

Jim Lange:  And all this, I believe, is well-documented in your book, so this isn’t just your opinion off the top of your head.  This is something that you have documented and you have proof for, that people are happier.

Linda Waite:  Well, there are a lot of surveys, Jim, that ask people the question, “How happy are you with your life these days?”  And then, since they’re big surveys, and I’ve done this, you can take all the men and all the women and look at which ones are married, divorced, widowed, never married, and look at, on average, how happy that group says it is, and there’s a huge gap between the married and the unmarried, bigger for men than for women.

Jim Lange:  Do you think that there would be any difference between same-sex and opposite-sex couples, or is this really too new for us to actually know from the literature?

Linda Waite:  You know, if it’s a fundamental human connection, somebody who loves you and you’re committed to, it should be exactly the same.

Jim Lange:  All right.  Well, finally, why don’t we talk about something that’s also very important, because even though we were talking about happiness there, you actually suggested that there was a lower percentage of depression in people who are married for people that might have that tendency.

Linda Waite:  Yes.

Jim Lange:  And I’ve heard this also anecdotally that people who are married stay healthier, but frankly, I’ve heard the same thing with people who have a dog or a cat.

Linda Waite:  And I think it’s true in both cases.  It just works slightly differently.

Jim Lange:  OK, well, why don’t we leave the cat and the dog to a cat and dog expert and ask you, the marriage expert, about the interrelationship between marriage and better health.

11. Wives Manage the Health Care of Their Husbands

Linda Waite:  And this also works differently for men and for women.  Single men, on average, don’t take very good care of themselves.  You know, they don’t eat well, they don’t eat regularly, they drink more than married men, they don’t sleep as well, they’re less likely to exercise.  Some of my recent work with a group here at the University of Chicago looked at the chances that older men and older women got the recommended screening colonoscopy, and what we found was that married men were more likely than unmarried men to have gotten the recommended cancer screening — it didn’t make a difference for women — and that men whose wives were happy with the marriage were more likely to be screened than men whose wives were unhappy with the marriage — it didn’t matter for women — and that men whose wives were highly educated were more likely to get screened.  So, it’s pretty clear in American society, wives manage the interaction with the medical system for their husbands, and men who don’t have somebody to do that get worse care.  They take worse care of themselves.

Jim Lange:  By the way, I will actually confirm that in my own case because my wife is basically a stay-at-home mom, and she deals with all the insurance.  She deals with getting medications.  She deals with the supplements and she …

Linda Waite:  The doctor’s appointments.

Jim Lange:  … the doctor’s appointments, and interestingly, even when my mom was in her 90s, I used to go to all her important medical appointments just to take notes, because I think it was a little bit overwhelming for her.

Linda Waite:  Very important.

Jim Lange:  And my wife actually, not on very many, but on one or two very important doctor’s appointments, she actually does come and take notes.  And so, what you’re saying I very much relate to.  The other thing that I sometimes tell her is — her name’s Cindy — I said, “Cindy, I could never leave you because I wouldn’t know how to use all the electronic gadgets that we have in our house.”

Linda Waite:  Right!

Jim Lange:  Which is another issue.  But I interrupted you.  You were talking about some of the other reasons, but frankly, right now, all you said was why men were going to be healthier.

12. Divorce, Poor Marriage Affect Woman’s Health More Than Men’s Health

Linda Waite:  Right, so women tend to have better health in part because a marriage tends to give them access to — since women still make less than men — better health insurance, safer living environment and a better place to live.  But in addition, some work that I’ve done recently with my colleague at Michigan State, “Cathy” Hui Liu, looks at marital quality and the development of cardiovascular disease, and some research has been finding pretty consistently that divorce and poor marital quality are worse for women than they are for men, and we found this in our own work, over a five-year period, women whose marital quality declined were more likely to develop cardiovascular disease symptoms like hypertension or rapid heart rate or some kind of heart disease, whereas for men, it didn’t matter.  And some other people have found that divorce increases the chances that women develop cardiovascular disease but doesn’t affect men.  Now, on the plus side, in some recent work with this same colleague, we found that women who were happy with their sex lives, who said that sex with their husband made them very emotionally satisfied, were protected against the development of cardiovascular disease.  So, a poor marriage seems to damage women’s hearts and a good marriage seems to protect it.  We’ve found, though, for diabetes that especially men, married men in good-quality marriages, were more likely to have their diabetes under control, which just goes back to the sort of stuff you were talking about before, Jim, you know, of your wife’s managing the doctors, the medication, the food, somebody who has somebody to do that for them, and it’s most likely to be their wife, is incredibly many, many steps ahead.

Jim Lange:  Well, Linda, you’ve done a great job, not only on this radio show, but also especially your book, which I’m going to recommend to our audience, which is The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier & Better Off Financially, by Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher.  Thank you again for being a terrific guest, Linda.

Linda Waite:  It was my pleasure.