2) Studying the evidence:
“The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness” looks at studies, over the years, of female and male happiness.
2.1) For the first graph (page 35) people were asked: “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days, would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?”
Slightly fewer women call themselves “very happy” in 2006 compared to 1972, but slightly fewer call themselves “not too happy”. There are thus more in the middle group.
Also note that using another date’s measurements as first and last, the graph would be almost as likely to say the opposite: Women were happier in 2004 than in 1983 or 1985. And where 1972 shows women a lot happier than men and 2006 only slightly happier (top part of table), 1978, 1983 and 1990 shows almost no difference and ’85, ’88 and ’96 and ’02 men as happier. The unhappiness table (bottom part) likewise, would say women got happier compared to men if it ended with the 2004, instead of 2006, fluctuation.
2.2) Figure 2 (page 36) maps the answer to: “How satisfied are you with your life today?” It may or may not be that social expectations have changed, that it is more acceptable to report dissatisfaction nowadays. But both sexes are less satisfied nowadays. However, the drop in female satisfaction is bigger.
2.3) Figure 3: US 12th grade girls are about as happy in the most recent year of reporting as in 1976, while boys the same age are a bit happier now than then. Girls are happier in the last and first years of the study than they were in any year in between. It seems that the first and last year of the study are anomalies and not part of a general trend.
2.4) Figure 4: Life Satisfaction in the EU 1973-2002 (Red arrows and red lines added by me) say that women are about as satisfied with life now as then, but men got a bit more so, so the happiness (women self-reported as happier than men) difference decreased a bit. This graph actually have bigger fluctuations between one set of numbers and the next than it has a real downward or up ward trend: Starting with the second measurement and comparing it to ’02 would suggest women are more satisfied in recent times. So would starting with the first and ending with the second-from last. (Red lines, added by me, show what the trend would have been if the second (last) measurement was used for the start and the end.)
2.5) Figure 5 (page 39): Women, as a whole, are a bit less happy with life as a whole in 2005 than in 1976, and men somewhat more. This graph does not show if 2005 and 1976 are (like in figure 1 and 3) statistical blips that give a somewhat different conclusion from those right before/ after it.
It does not seem that the sexist solution of taking women back home will work, as women in this table report being slightly more positive about their jobs compared to the male trend (first question, page 39), and slightly happier keeping house while men are a lot happier keeping house. (Page 47)
(Figure 6 does not directly relate to happiness or satisfaction, and won’t be discussed here.)
2.6) Figure 7: Suicide rates for both sexes decreased between 1950 and 2005. But for men, the decrease was starker.
> Out of 6 groups of studies, in only two did women self-report less happiness. (One for men.)
> In three it seems that the happiness of women did not change much (depending on which exact data point you cherry-pick to start they could be slightly happier or slightly less happy). (Two for men.)
> In the last group both sexes got less suicidally unhappy. (One other study also shows men getting happier.)
What is true, though, is that in at least 4 of the 6 studies, men’s happiness compared to that of women got better. Studies where women were slightly more likely to answer they are happy, men were a lot more likely to say they are happy. Studies where women were unhappier, men’s claimed happiness did not fall as sharply. Is that a real comparison? Or is it more socially acceptable these days for women to say they are unhappy? Or less socially acceptable these days for men? Does “happy” even mean the same as in 1970?
4) My answer:
This article started with a question by Mary Kassian or Nancy Leigh DeMoss:
“Why do you think that as women have gained more education, more economic independence, more power, and more freedom, they have become less and less happy?”
Answer: Women are called less happy nowadays, because people misuse statistics.