Working Women Are Happier

An interesting new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and the Chicago Federal Reserve, which looks at eighty years of workplace history, reports interesting findings: over time, women have become happier and more satisfied with work, while men have become less happy and less satisfied. Evan Horowitz of the Boston Globe notes that the researchers acknowledge the challenges of measuring something like happiness and satisfaction when they don’t use a consistent year-by-year survey that asks the same questions. But the researchers explain that they built their research on several existing solid studies and devised new methods of data analysis to draw the longitudinal conclusion that only women have improved their working lives. Here are some reasons for this gender difference offered by the researchers:

  • Changing social norms allowed more women to enter the workplace in recent decades.
  • The work options available for working women have expanded dramatically since the 1950s, and even more so since the 1990s.
  • Women have been shifting into better jobs with less clerical activity and more professional and managerial jobs and fewer assembly-line jobs.
  • More women than men now graduate in the United States with college and graduate school degrees, which increases their options.
  • Lower-educated women have enjoyed the greatest increase in workplace satisfaction, possibly because they were the most constrained to begin with under the old gendered rules.
What about men? Why is their satisfaction lower than in the past? The researchers have some suggestions:
  • While physically demanding work, such as mining and assembly-line work, has become less common, men seem to enjoy factory work much more than women do. Consequently, the shift from assembly lines to desk work left women feeling more content and men feeling less content.
  • The shift from assembly-line work also coincides with the erosion of labor union membership and job security, leaving men feeling more stress and less contentment even when they are able to find factory work.
The researchers note that their findings of decreased happiness and satisfaction with work for men “is consistent with a growing body of research about the struggles of men.” While I definitely do not wish for men to be less happy with their work, I do note, with pride, the increased happiness of women in the workplace. I am grateful for the struggles of the second-wave feminist movement since the 1960s to open up work options for women. I remember when very few options existed for women. The struggle is not over. I have written recent articles about the gender pay gap and challenges that women still face with having access to leadership roles and to nontraditional jobs. But I am pleased that we have more options and are happier. Do you “remember when”? What do see that is different for women now?   Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash]]>

Gender Equality and Population Growth: What China and Europe Need to Know

China’s recent announcement that more families will be allowed to have a second child ended the one-child policy in effect in China since 1980. When the one-child policy was implemented, China’s leaders were desperate to control their population’s growth. With 1.2 billion people, or one-quarter of the world’s population, and a third-world economy, they worried that they could not continue to feed everyone and improve the standard of living for all Chinese people if they didn’t slow the rate of population growth. They succeeded on all counts, and now, thirty-five years later, as the second-largest economy in the world, China is facing a problem that many European countries are also facing—aging populations and not enough babies to replace or support them. But studies show that passing laws to encourage higher birthrates are not particularly effective. Steven Erlanger of the New York Times notes that countries with healthy birthrates have the following social forces engaged:

  • Gender equality
  • Trust within society
  • Immigration by people of childbearing age
Because China has none of these social forces in effect, their fertility rate is not likely to go up very much, and they are likely to face population-aging problems on a scale never before seen. What has gender equality got to do with higher fertility rates? The Nordic countries of Europe, along with France, were able to reverse their birthrates after they hit a low point in the 1960s and 1970s. Erlanger explains that the birthrates went up “because of social policies and attitudes in those countries promoting gender equality,” including paid parental leave and childcare support. In other Western European countries—like Germany, who did not institute these policies—the birthrates are still very low. One example of the impact of social policies on birthrates of is offered by Professor Francesco Billari of Oxford University, cited by Erlanger in his article. Billari uses Italy as an example where the trends have reversed between the richer North and the poorer South because of differences in social policy. The fertility rate is now higher in Northern Italy where women have more gender equality and job opportunities than in the South. Women in the poorer South, where there is high unemployment, more traditional gender-based divisions of labor, and “lack of female participation in the labor force,” are having fewer children than in the past. Russia, Central Europe, and East Asia are other examples of low birthrate countries and regions where there is a lack of gender equality, small numbers of working women, and few social policies to support working families. Professor Billari goes on to note that social policy that promotes gender equality and support for working families “has to be pushed by a society that is ready for it or demands it from politicians.” Especially during this election cycle, let’s demand that our politicians do more to promote gender equality and support working families!   Image provided courtesy of arztsamui at]]>