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

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  • Herbst, Chris M.

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Herbst, Chris M., 2011. "‘Paradoxical’ decline? Another look at the relative reduction in female happiness," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 773-788.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:32:y:2011:i:5:p:773-788
    DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2011.07.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
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    10. 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.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Chris Herbst & Erdal Tekin, 2012. "Child Care Subsidies, Maternal Well-Being, and Child-Parent Interactions: Evidence from Three Nationally Representative Datasets," Working Papers 1372, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    2. Boyd-Swan, Casey & Herbst, Chris M., 2012. "Pain at the pump: Gasoline prices and subjective well-being," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 160-175.
    3. Gerhard Meisenberg & Michael Woodley, 2015. "Gender Differences in Subjective Well-Being and Their Relationships with Gender Equality," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 16(6), pages 1539-1555, December.
    4. Owen, Ann L. & Handley-Miner, Isaac, 2015. "Race, Class, Gender, and the Happiness of College Students," MPRA Paper 67078, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Brodeur, Abel & Connolly, Marie, 2013. "Do higher child care subsidies improve parental well-being? Evidence from Quebec's family policies," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 1-16.
    6. Senasu, Kalayanee & Singhapakdi, Anusorn, 2014. "Happiness in Thailand: The Effects of Family, Health and Job Satisfaction, and the Moderating Role of Gender," Working Papers 76, JICA Research Institute.
    7. Abel Brodeur & Marie Connolly, 2012. "Do Higher Childcare Subsidies Improve Parental Well-being? Evidence from Québec's Family Policies," Working Papers halshs-00699671, HAL.
    8. Chris M. Herbst & John Ifcher, 2016. "The increasing happiness of US parents," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 529-551, September.
    9. repec:hal:psewpa:halshs-00699671 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Chris M. Herbst & Erdal Tekin, 2014. "Child Care Subsidies, Maternal Health, And Child–Parent Interactions: Evidence From Three Nationally Representative Datasets," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(8), pages 894-916, August.
    11. Jean Twenge, 2015. "Time Period and Birth Cohort Differences in Depressive Symptoms in the U.S., 1982–2013," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 121(2), pages 437-454, April.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Happiness; Subjective well-being trends;

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J00 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - General
    • 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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