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Why are women less happy?

September 28, 2007

The NY Times reports on a study by economist Alan Krueger that examines self-reported emotions during different daily activities. Some surprising results of the survey include the amount of women who find time with their parents unpleasant (27%, vs. 7% of men) as well as spending time with their friends (19% unpleasant, vs. 7% of men). The authors speculate that what women do during these activities tends to be like work – planning a family party, for instance.

An author of a similar study quotes a successful young businesswoman as getting to the root of the happiness issue:

Ms. Stevenson was recently having drinks with a business school graduate who came up with a nice way of summarizing the problem. Her mother’s goals in life, the student said, were to have a beautiful garden, a well-kept house and well-adjusted children who did well in school. “I sort of want all those things, too,” the student said, as Ms. Stevenson recalled, “but I also want to have a great career and have an impact on the broader world.”

Maybe I am in the minority, but aren’t those “traditional” goals common across genders now? I want smart kids and a nice house and yard and a dog, and am willing to do what is necessary to achieve those goals. Maybe a few generations ago men did not worry about these things (and many still do not), but I have a feeling many males in my generation share these “traditional” goals.

As more and more women become career focused, more and more men are turning attention to the household. In the four months I’ve been in my current job, the handful of young (20s and 30s) men I work with who have children have all left in the middle of the day for random kid-related reasons at least once. I doubt men a generation ago could even fathom wanting to leave work for a kindergarten graduation.

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