The data have been collected and analyzed and the determination made: Women are less happy than they were 35 years ago, less happy than men, and the gap between men's and women's happiness is growing. The National Bureau of Economic Research released the report in May, and according to its researchers, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, this decline in happiness is pretty much true for women across the board in industrialized nations.
But women can be CEOs, politicians, and college presidents. They are better paid and have more visibility and opportunity than they did 30 years ago, so why are women less happy?
Stevenson and Wolfers speculate that perhaps it's the overall decrease in social cohesion, or increased anxiety and neuroticism. Or maybe now that women have multiple roles, they are satisfied in one role, but miserable in another, bringing down their overall sense of happiness. Maybe the women's movement raised expectations for women, and their lives don't measure up to those expectations.
I'm sitting in a window seat on a flight mulling this over, heading home after spending a day at Pine Rest in Grand Rapids talking to psychologists, counselors, social workers, and pastors who work with girls and women. Bob Hosack, my editor at Baker Books, extended the invitation believing my ideas from Growing Strong Daughters would be useful. I tossed my speculations about why women are less happy than we used to be into the mix. Here they are:
Our raised expectations have a fair bit to do with it. So does a form of individualism that redefined women's expectations in the aftermath of the feminist movement. (Important note: I call myself a feminist.) We are predisposed to fall into an individualism that is all about me, and women ...1
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