Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who's Happy Now??

The latest news flash is that there is a growing happiness gap between men and women. Now I just assume that I am much happier than Mrs. Angus because I get to hang around with her while she has to hang around with me. She however keeps insisting that she is very happy.

Nonetheless, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, economists at the University of Pennsylvania (and a couple), have looked at the traditional happiness data, in which people are simply asked how satisfied they are with their overall lives. In the early 1970s, women reported being slightly happier than men. Today, the two have switched places.

Leave it to the NY times to immediately see a role for government policy:

A big reason that women reported being happier three decades ago — despite far more discrimination — is probably that they had narrower ambitions, Ms. Stevenson says. Many compared themselves only to other women, rather than to men as well. This doesn’t mean they were better off back then.

But it does show just how incomplete the gender revolution has been. Although women have flooded into the work force, American society hasn’t fully come to grips with the change. The United States still doesn’t have universal preschool, and, in contrast to other industrialized countries, there is no guaranteed paid leave for new parents.

Government policy isn’t the only problem, either. Inside of families, men still haven’t figured out how to shoulder their fair share of the household burden. Instead, we’re spending more time on the phone and in front of the television.

Holy Crap, Holy Crap, Holy Crap!!

The research reported on doesn't compare the happiness of women with access to preschool or maternal leave against those without such access, nor does it compare the happiness of women with and without loutish husbands. Neither the words "preschool" or "parental leave" appear in the Stevenson-Wolfers paper or the Krueger paper (nor does any other kind of paid leave).

Does anybody else find the Times' conclusions bizarre and bogus?


Anonymous said...

I find the entire field of "happiness measurement" bizarre and bogus. When did utility become measurable in a way that is comparable across individuals?

Simon Spero said...

Mark Lieberman over at "Language Log" has been lightly fuming...
See The "happiness gap" and the rhetoric of statistics and Gender-role resentment and Rorschach-blot news reports