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The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness

By Betsey Stevenson, Justin Wolfers, Christian Holzner, Robert Jäckle, Andrew Oswald and Eric Posner


The lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years by many objective measures, yet we show that measures of subjective well-being indicate that women’s happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men. This decline in relative wellbeing is found across various datasets, measures of subjective wellbeing, demographic groups, and industrialized countries. Relative declines in female happiness have eroded a gender gap in happiness in which women in the 1970s 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. (JEL I31, J16, J28) By many measures, the progress of women over recent decades has been extraordinary. The gender wage gap has partly closed. Educational attainment has risen and is now surpassing that of men. Women have gained an unprecedented level of control over fertility. Technological change, in the form of new domestic appliances

Year: 2009
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