What Does Woman Want?

Is there nonanecdotal evidence out there that this latest form of female dissatisfaction amounts to more than just another example of certain people spending more time on the Internet than they probably should? Two Wharton economists, Betsey Stephenson and Justin Wolfers, called forth considerable comment with their recent paper on the subject, “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness.” Using thirty-five years of data from the General Social Survey, they observe that, given the many social and economic transformations of modernity that would appear to benefit women—a closing gender wage gap, an educational attainment that now tops that of men, the sexual freedom conveyed by artificial contraception, and more—one would reasonably expect to see those who are the beneficiaries of these trends registering increased happiness.

Instead—and hence the paradox of the study’s title—the reverse seems to be true: Over the past thirty-five years, “women’s happiness has fallen both absolutely and relative to men’s in a pervasive way among groups, such that women no longer report being happier than men and, in many instances, now report happiness that is below that of men.” Moreover, their data show, “this shift has occurred through much of the industrialized world.”

So what is happening out there to account for all these miserable, dissatisfied wives and mothers? Why are many of today’s marriages apparently peopled by snippy, ineffectual husbands and smoldering (in all senses) desperate housewives?

via What Does Woman Want? | First Things.


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