The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness

49 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2009  

Betsey Stevenson

University of Michigan

Justin Wolfers

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; The Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan; University of Sydney Department of Economics; The Brookings Institution; Peterson Institute for International Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Kiel Institute for the World Economy

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Abstract

By many objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years, yet we show that measures of subjective well-being indicate that women's happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men. The paradox of women's declining relative well-being is found across various datasets, measures of subjective well-being, and is pervasive across demographic groups and industrialized countries. Relative declines in female happiness have eroded a gender gap in happiness in which women in the 1970s typically reported higher subjective well-being than did men. These declines have continued and a new gender gap is emerging - one with higher subjective well-being for men.

Keywords: subjective well-being, life satisfaction, happiness, gender, job satisfaction, women's movement

JEL Classification: D6, I32, J1, J7, K1

Suggested Citation

Stevenson, Betsey and Wolfers, Justin, The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness. IZA Discussion Paper No. 4200. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1412278

Betsey Stevenson (Contact Author)

University of Michigan ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Justin Wolfers

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )

611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
United States
734-764-2447 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers

The Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan ( email )

735 South State Street, Weill Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
734-615-6846 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers

University of Sydney Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box H58
Australia Square
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

The Brookings Institution ( email )

1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers

Peterson Institute for International Economics ( email )

1750 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.iza.org/en/webcontent/personnel/photos/index_html?key=1737

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.cepr.org/researchers/details/rschcontact.asp?IDENT=157943

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Kiel Institute for the World Economy ( email )

P.O. Box 4309
Kiel, D-24100
Germany

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