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The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness

  • Stevenson, Betsey
  • Wolfers, Justin

By many objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years, yet we show that measures of subjective well-being indicate that women’s happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men. The paradox of women’s declining relative well-being is found across various datasets, measures of subjective well-being, and is pervasive across demographic groups and industrialized countries. Relative declines in female happiness have eroded a gender gap in happiness in which women in the 1970s typically 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.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7311.

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Date of creation: Jun 2009
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7311
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  1. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 616, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  2. Francine D. Blau, 1997. "Trends in the Well-Being of American Women, 1970-1995," NBER Working Papers 6206, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2006. "Measuring Trends in Leisure: The Allocation of Time Over Five Decades," NBER Working Papers 12082, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Happiness Inequality in the United States," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(S2), pages S33-S79, 06.
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  6. 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 C208-C227, 03.
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  8. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2005. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Re-Assessing the Revisionists," NBER Working Papers 11627, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Goldin, Claudia & Kuziemko, Ilyana & Katz, Lawrence, 2006. "The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap," Scholarly Articles 2962611, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  10. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2007. "Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces," NBER Working Papers 12944, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Christian Bjørnskov & Axel Dreher & Justina A.V. Fischer, 2007. "On Gender Inequality and Life Satisfaction: Does Discrimination Matter?," KOF Working papers 07-161, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
  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. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L & Katz, Michael L, 1996. "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 277-317, May.
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