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