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Gender and Well-being Around the World: Some Insights from the Economics of Happiness


  • Carol Graham

    (The Brookings Institution)

  • Soumya Chattopadhyay

    (The Brookings Institution)


A wide body of research explores gender differences in welfare outcomes, and their implications for economic development. We aim to contribute to this work by looking at differences in reported well-being (happiness) across genders around the world. We examine differences across genders within countries, comparing age, income, education, and urban versus rural cohorts, and explore how those same within country differences vary in countries of different development levels. Our findings, based also on previous research on well-being more generally, highlight some consistent patterns across genders, with women typically happier than men in the world as a whole, with the exception of the poorest sample of countries. We also find substantial differences in the standard relationships between key variables - such as marriage - and happiness when we take differences in gender rights into account. Our research also suggests that cross-gender differences in well-being are affected by the same empirical and methodological factors that drive the paradoxes underlying the income and happiness debates more generally, with norms and expectations playing an important mediating role. Women's happiness seems to fall - at least in the short-term - when there are changes/improvements in gender rights, in keeping with our more general findings on the drops in reported well-being that are often associated with the process of acquiring agency.

Suggested Citation

  • Carol Graham & Soumya Chattopadhyay, 2012. "Gender and Well-being Around the World: Some Insights from the Economics of Happiness," Working Papers 2012-010, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2012-010
    Note: MIP

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    File Function: First version, 3/1/2012
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Gender and Well-being Around the World: Some Insights from the Economics of Happiness
      by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2012-05-28 22:16:18
    2. Freedom vs happiness
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2012-05-28 18:48:18
    3. Freedom, well-being & capitalism
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2012-07-29 17:03:31
    4. Why was Hobsbawm wrong?
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2012-10-02 18:03:20
    5. What is Freedom? (18): Freedom is a Happiness Pump
      by Filip Spagnoli in P.A.P.-Blog on 2014-06-10 21:31:17


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Yingying Su & Carl D’Arcy & Muzi Li & Xiangfei Meng, 2022. "Determinants of Life Satisfaction and Self-Perceived Health in Nationally Representative Population-Based Samples, Canada, 2009 to 2018," Applied Research in Quality of Life, Springer;International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies, vol. 17(6), pages 3285-3310, December.
    2. Rocío Calvo & Felix Cheung, 2018. "Does Money Buy Immigrant Happiness?," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 19(6), pages 1657-1672, August.
    3. Goldsmith, Ronald, 2016. "The Big Five, happiness, and shopping," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 52-61.
    4. Laura Monteiro & Michael Haan, 2022. "The Life Satisfaction of Immigrants in Canada: Does Time Since Arrival Matter more than Income?," Journal of International Migration and Integration, Springer, vol. 23(3), pages 1397-1420, September.
    5. Rocío de la Fuente & Águeda Parra & Inmaculada Sánchez-Queija & Izarne Lizaso, 2020. "Flourishing During Emerging Adulthood from a Gender Perspective," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 21(8), pages 2889-2908, December.
    6. Carola Hommerich & Tim Tiefenbach, 2018. "Analyzing the Relationship Between Social Capital and Subjective Well-Being: The Mediating Role of Social Affiliation," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 19(4), pages 1091-1114, April.

    More about this item


    happiness; gender; agency; expectations;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination

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    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


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