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. 

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