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‘Paradoxical’ decline? Another look at the relative reduction in female happiness

  • Herbst, Chris M.
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    In a provocative paper, Stevenson and Wolfers (2009) provide evidence that women over the last several decades experienced an absolute and relative decline in happiness. The current paper draws upon novel data from the DDB Needham Life Style Survey to take another look at the evolution of women’s subjective well-being. In contrast to Stevenson and Wolfers, I find that men and women between 1985 and 2005 experienced similar decreases in life satisfaction. Furthermore, both sexes witnessed comparable slippages in self-confidence, growing regrets about the past, and declines in virtually every measure of self-reported physical and mental health. The data also show that men’s well-being in recent years has begun to fall more rapidly than that for women. In the final section of the paper, I present some initial evidence that the steady erosion in social and civic engagement, interpersonal trust, and financial security could be partially responsible for the widespread decline in subjective well-being over the past few decades.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167487011000985
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Psychology.

    Volume (Year): 32 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 5 ()
    Pages: 773-788

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:32:y:2011:i:5:p:773-788
    DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2011.07.001
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/joep

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    1. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2009. "The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness," NBER Working Papers 14969, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2008. "Happiness Inequality in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 3624, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2000. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," NBER Working Papers 7487, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Valerie Ramey & Neville Francis, 2006. "A Century of Work and Leisure," Working Papers id:546, eSocialSciences.
    5. Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2005. "Unhappiness and Crime: Evidence from South Africa," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 72(3), pages 531-547, 08.
    6. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "What can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," IEW - Working Papers 080, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    7. 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.
    8. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2003. "Healthy Living in Hard Times," IZA Discussion Papers 711, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," NBER Working Papers 5570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Fischer, Justina AV, 2009. "Subjective Well-Being as Welfare Measure: Concepts and Methodology," MPRA Paper 16619, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. 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.
    12. A. Sousa-Poza & A. A. Sousa-Poza, 2003. "Gender differences in job satisfaction in Great Britain, 1991-2000: permanent or transitory?," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(11), pages 691-694.
    13. John F. Helliwell, 2002. "How's Life? Combining Individual and National Variables to Explain Subjective Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 9065, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
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