Marriage makes you healthy and happy (if you do it with a friend)

So, you know I’m a fan of marriage.  There’s long been plenty of evidence that people who are married are healthier and happier (I used to assign a reading titled “how marriage is like a bran muffin”), but not necessarily evidence that this is a causal relationship.  The latest research provides strong evidence that marriage helps to create well-being– especially when it suffers most in the 40’s.  The Upshot:

A new economics paper has some old-fashioned advice for people navigating the stresses of life: Find a spouse who is also your best friend.

Social scientists have long known that married people tend to be happier, but they debate whether that is because marriage causes happiness or simply because happier people are more likely to get married. The new paper, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, controlled for pre-marriage happiness levels.

It concluded that being married makes people happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who remain single – particularly during the most stressful periods, like midlife crises.

Even as fewer people are marrying, the disadvantages of remaining single have broad implications. It’s important because marriage is increasingly a force behind inequality. Stable marriages are more common among educated, high-income people, and increasingly out of reach for those who are not. That divide appears to affect not just people’s income and family stability, but also their happiness and stress levels…

Those whose lives are most difficult could benefit most from marriage, according to the economists who wrote the new paper, John Helliwell of the Vancouver School of Economics and Shawn Grover of the Canadian Department of Finance. “Marriage may be most important when there is that stress in life and when things are going wrong,” Mr. Grover said…

Intriguingly, marital happiness long outlasted the honeymoon period. Though some social scientists have argued that happiness levels are innate, so people return to their natural level of well-being after joyful or upsetting events, the researchers found that the benefits of marriage persist.

One reason for that might be the role of friendship within marriage. Those who consider their spouse or partner to be their best friend get about twice as much life satisfaction from marriage as others, the study found…

The effect of friendship seems to be the result of living with a romantic partner, rather than the legal status of being married, because it was as strong for people who lived together but weren’t married. Women benefit more from being married to their best friend than men do, though women are less likely to regard their spouse as their best friend.

“What immediately intrigued me about the results was to rethink marriage as a whole,” Mr. Helliwell said. “Maybe what is really important is friendship, and to never forget that in the push and pull of daily life.”

Pretty interesting stuff.  And I’m sure glad that I made the decision to marry my best friend 20 years ago.

Also, Wonkblog took a look, but focused more on how much it helps the happiness of those in middle age (in one of their charts, happiness bottoms out at 42– nowhere to go but up!).  Nice graph here:

When cops create criminals

I’ve written before about how the FBI is in the habit of creating terrorists where none exist.  And here’s a disturbing story from Connor Friedersdorf of Florida police creating sexual predators of juveniles where none would otherwise exist.  It’s really so wrong:

You’re probably thinking, Wait a minute, I’d run from underage encounters. How could men who were really seeking adult sex partners be groomed to break the law?

According to the 10 News investigation, police officers used the following tactics:

  • “Sometimes, the officers would act as an interested adult with a teenage ‘sister’ who was also interested. Even though many of the men had no interest in the underage decoys, if they traveled to meet the adult, they were arrested as a ‘sexual predator’ and charged with ‘traveling to meet a minor.'”
  • “In the case of a 27-year-old Cape Coral man … deputies arrested him even though he didn’t even travel to meet a child for sex. Law enforcement officers responded to the man’s legal ‘casual encounters’ Craigslist ad, pretending to be a 14-year-old girl, even though the ad said, ‘age for all women must be 18+ no one under email me plz.’ The man repeatedly told the undercover detectives that he was ‘not OK’ with meeting up with an underage girl, but because he didn’t immediately end the conversation, he was arrested for utilizing his phone to solicit a sexual act from a child. Detectives went to his house and arrested him as a sexual predator of children.”
  • A 21-year-old “responded to a ad posted of an 18-year-old woman. The officer … started exchanging messages with the man when he asked her to a movie. The officer wrote, ‘are you Ok with me being under 18?’ The 21-year-old continued the conversation. Following more exchanged messages and texts, the detective later added that ‘she’ was about to turn 16, the age of consent in Florida. As the two continued to swap texts, the man said ‘I don’t want to have sex, is that OK?’ But the detective, who repeatedly rejected the man’s interest in a possible relationship, kept pushing sex and threatened to call off their meeting. When the man finally indicated he would have sex, police had enough to charge him … “

In those cases and others like them, “detectives weren’t posting ads of children, but ads of adults looking for other adults. They would then later introduce a child to the conversation.” Detectives were also “reaching out to law-abiding men posting law-abiding ads on legal dating sites,” as well as Facebook and Twitter, “seeking other adults.”

These detectives behaved unethically and shamefully. [all emphases mine]

Of course, as with the FBI and terrorists, not only is this a shameful violation of law enforcement ethics, it puts us all in greater danger by utterly wasting police resources by creating criminals where truly none would exist, rather than protecting us from actual criminals.

Oh, and to add insult to injury, it gets even worse:

If this approach 1) targeted men who almost certainly represented no actual threat to minors 2) in a way that made successful prosecutions relatively unlikely, why were police doing this? One incentive was the availability of federal funds earmarked for sex predator stings. Another factor: asset forfeiture, which allows police to seize the property of people who are arrested even if they aren’t convicted.

“Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act made it easy for agencies to seize property as their own from anyone accused of committing a felony—even if charges are ultimately never filed,” 10News reports. “Sex stings have become especially rich sources for seizures, since almost every man arrested is accused of traveling to seduce, solicit, or entice a child to commit a sexual act … even though no real children are ever involved … However, the accusations are felonies, meaning law enforcement can seize suspect’s vehicles, making it extremely difficult for them to ever get them back without paying thousands of dollars—or more—in cash to the arresting agency.”

In essence, the police wasted time pursing non-threats to public safety in part to enrich themselves at the expense of people like a 24-year-old man arrested in a January sting, who “had to pay $10,000 cash to get his 2014 Lexus returned … though all felony charges were later dropped in his case, he will not get the money back for either the negotiated settlement or the fees he paid an attorney to handle the vehicle case.” This is yet another illustration of the need for asset forfeiture reform.

The tactic is legalized theft.

Damn straight it is.  Shame on any government agency that allows and encourages such behavior.  I can’t help but wonder how many other similarly shameful practices are going on that we don’t even know about.

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