My Wealth, (Y)Our Life Satisfaction? Sole and Joint Wealth Ownership and Life Satisfaction in Marriage


This study examines the money-subjective well-being nexus by studying the link between changes in jointly and solely (i.e. respondents’ own and their partner’s own) held gross wealth and changes in married individuals’ subjective well-being. Joint assets reflect norms of sharing responsibilities and resources. Solely held assets, in contrast, offer individual economic independence. Using wealth data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP 2002, 2007, 2012, 2017), we estimate individual fixed effects regressions. Although coefficients for all three wealth measures are positive, our results highlight that only increases in jointly held wealth are associated with statistically significant increases in spouses’ life satisfaction in Germany. Despite expectations about a stronger relevance of joint wealth for men compared to women in line with men’s role as a financial provider for the family, we do not find substantial gender differences in the positive association between increases in joint wealth and life satisfaction. In light of the individualisation of marriages, our results highlight that the personal benefits associated with marital sharing of wealth seem to trump those of economic independence and financial autonomy.

European Journal of Population