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The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness

Author

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  • Betsey Stevenson
  • Justin Wolfers

Abstract

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)

Suggested Citation

  • Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2009. "The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 190-225, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:1:y:2009:i:2:p:190-225
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.1.2.190
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Happiness Inequality in the United States," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(S2), pages 33-79, June.
    2. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz & Ilyana Kuziemko, 2006. "The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(4), pages 133-156, Fall.
    3. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
    4. Angus Deaton, 2008. "Income, Health, and Well-Being around the World: Evidence from the Gallup World Poll," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(2), pages 53-72, Spring.
    5. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2007. "Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 27-52, Spring.
    6. Alan B. Krueger, 2007. "Are We Having More Fun Yet? Categorizing and Evaluating Changes in Time Alloction," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 38(2), pages 193-218.
    7. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2005. "Trends in U. S. Wage Inequality: Re-Assessing the Revisionists," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2095, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    8. repec:pri:cheawb:deaton_income_health_and_wellbeing_around_the_world_evidence_%20from_gallup_world_poll_jep_spring2008.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:pri:cheawb:deaton_income_health_and_wellbeing_around_the_world_evidence_%20from_gallup_world_poll_jep_spring2008 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Francine D. Blau, 1998. "Trends in the Well-Being of American Women, 1970-1995," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 112-165, March.
    11. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger, 2006. "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
    12. Silvia Pezzini, 2005. "The Effect of Women's Rights on Women's Welfare: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(502), pages 208-227, March.
    13. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2007. "Measuring Trends in Leisure: The Allocation of Time Over Five Decades," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 969-1006.
    14. Justina A.V. Fischer & Christian Bjornskov & Axel Dreher, 2007. "On Gender Inequality and Life Satisfaction: Does Discrimination Matter?," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2007 2007-07, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
    15. George A. Akerlof & Janet L. Yellen & Michael L. Katz, 1996. "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 277-317.
    16. Adam Isen & Betsey Stevenson, 2010. "Women's Education and Family Behavior: Trends in Marriage, Divorce and Fertility," NBER Chapters,in: Demography and the Economy, pages 107-140 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2007. "Long-Run Changes in the Wage Structure: Narrowing, Widening, Polarizing," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 38(2), pages 135-168.
    18. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2007. "Changes in the Labor Supply Behavior of Married Women: 1980–2000," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 393-438.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J28 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Safety; Job Satisfaction; Related Public Policy

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