Sunday, April 29, 2012

Are women becoming less happy?

In the 1970s, women were slightly happier than men, as measured by questions like "would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?"  Now they are less happy than men, and less happy that they were forty years ago, according to the same questions.  This makes for an interesting paradox, since women have gained in terms of things like income and education, and various explanations have been offered.

Here's another question which was asked several times between 1946 and 1995.  “If you could live your life again, would you rather be born as a man or a woman?”    I broke the results down by gender for 1958 and 1995.

85% man; 4% woman (1958)
88% man; 4% woman (1995)

17% man; 73% woman (1958)
7% man; 90% woman (1995)

The substantial drop in the number of women saying they would rather be born as a man seems hard to square with the idea that women were getting less happy during that time.  My explanation of the trends for the standard question is that to some extent people are using a standard of "what I could reasonably expect," and women's standards were rising. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Diversity without preferences

Most people oppose racial preferences in hiring.  For example, a 2001 poll sponsored by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University asked people for their reaction to the statement "Because of past discrimination, qualified African Americans should receive preference over equally qualified whites in such matters as getting jobs":  9% strongly agreed, 12% agreed, while 21% disagreed and 58% strongly disagreed.  However, the same survey asked for reactions to the statement,
"Employers should be required by law to maintain a certain level of diversity in the workplace," and got a very different response:  32% strongly agreed, 24%, 16% disagreed, and 28% strongly disagreed.   Logically, it seems like a requirement to maintain diversity means not just preferences, but quotas, which are even less popular.  But apparently people didn't see a contradiction:  the diversity question was asked just before the preference question (with only one intervening item), so people didn't have time to forget their answers. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Constitution

A Roper survey of 1971 asked people to choose from three statements: 
a.  "Our form of government, based on the constitution, has stood the test of time and no fundamental changes need to be made in it."
b.  "The Constitution has served its purpose well, but it has not kept up with the times and should be thoroughly revised to make it fit present day needs."
c.  "Changing times have outmoded our system of government and we might as well accept the fact that sooner or later we will have to have a new form of government."

A similar question was asked in 1939 and twice in 1946.  The second statement was exactly the same; the first said "as near perfect as it can be and no fundamental changes should be made in it."  The third said "the systems of private capitalism and democracy are breaking down and we might as well accept the fact..."  The responses:

                A         B          C
1939      64%    19%      5%
1946      43%     33%   19%
1946      51%     27%      9%

1971      38%     39%     15%

Despite the difference in the questions, it seems pretty safe to say that support for revising the Constitution was higher in 1971 than in the earlier years.  In fact, since both options A and C were put in less extreme terms in 1971, the numbers probably understate the shift towards B.  Unfortunately, the question hasn't been asked since then, but we can look at patterns in 1971. 

                                               A         B           C
Not HS Grad                        30%    32%      21%
High School                         36%    41%      16%
College                                 49%    42%        6%

18-25                                    29%     46%     16%
26-34                                    34%     45%     14%
35-49                                    41%     37%     14%
50-64                                    43%     33%     15%
65+                                       41%     33%     14%

White                                    40%      41%     13%
Black                                    22%      25%      27%

Very Conservative              50%      22%     20%
Moderate Conservative      49%      36%     10%
Middle of the Road             34%      43%     15%
Moderate Liberal                27%       52%     17%
Very  Liberal                       21%       35%     29%

The biggest surprise to me is that more educated people were less likely to support revising or completely changing the constitution.  Usually more educated people are less traditionalist, and that seems to have been particularly true in the 1960s. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

An obligation to have children?

A recent book by a philosopher, David Benatar, says that we do not believe that people have an obligation to have children.  (I haven't read the book--this is from a review in the New Yorker).  Ross Douthat wonders who this "we" is--he says that the idea that people have an obligation to have children "has been a commonplace and intuitive part of folk morality in most cultures in human history," although it has become "unfashionable ... in certain circles in the West."  I think he's right about most cultures, but was struck by the "certain circles."  That suggests that he think it remains "part of folk morality" among ordinary people in the West. 

There are not many questions on this subject--the most relevant one is from a 1991 Associated Press survey.  The question is "I'm going to read you some words or phrases people have used to describe couples married for several years who have no children.  And I'm going to ask you how well each one describes childless couples."  One of the words is "selfish."  Overall 19% said it described childless couples well and 75% did not.  Less educated and older people were more likely to agree, but even among people over 50 who did not graduate from high school, only 32% did.  Neither party preference, living in an urban area, or region of the country made much (if any) difference.  So "certain circles" appear to extend pretty widely.  At least they did in 1991--it would be interesting to see if the issue has become more politicized since then.

PS:  Slightly over half of people who were separated agreed, far more than any other marital status (the next highest was married, at 21%).  Only about 50 people in the sample were separated, but the differences were still statistically significant.  Maybe a lot of separations are because of disagreement over whether to have children? 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Job Satisfaction

Many surveys have found that 80-90 percent of people say they are satisfied with their jobs. Recently I saw a reference to one that found a much lower level of satisfaction. According to the Conference Board, "only 45 percent of Americans said they were satisfied with their jobs, which is a marked drop from the more than 61 percent who said they were satisfied in 1987."  They gave no detail about their survey, and I wasn't curious enough to spend $395 for the full report, but I found a Washington Post story that gave a little detail.  They ask people to rank their satisfaction at work on a scale of 1-5, and the 45% refers to people who rated their job a 4 or 5.  So possibly there are a lot of people who pick an intermediate response (3) to this question, but say they are satisfied when forced to make a yes/no choice ("can't complain").  The Washington Post story also said that the survey was based on a mail-in questionnaire, and it's possible that people who aren't happy are more motivated to send it in. 

I looked for questions on job satisfaction using a similar format--ones that asked people to pick a number without attaching labels to it.  There aren't many.  You have to go back to 1984 for a Gallup survey that asked people to pick a number from 1-10.  In that survey, 64% chose 7-10, and 18% chose 4-6.  The most common response was 10 (24%), and then the percentages tapered off pretty steadily.  So it doesn't seem like there are a lot of people in the middle.   

PS:  The 1984 Gallup survey asked half of the sample a standard "would you say you are satisfied or dissatisfied" question:  70% said yes, and 20% said no, which is a lower level of satisfaction than what is usually found.  With both forms of the question, about 10% said they didn't know, which I find surprisingly high--it seems like the kind of thing almost everyone would have an opinion on.