A New York Times article makes the claim that men are now happier than women:
Since the 1960s, men have gradually cut back on activities they find unpleasant. They now work less and relax more.
Over the same span, women have replaced housework with paid work — and, as a result, are spending almost as much time doing things they don’t enjoy as in the past. Forty years ago, a typical woman spent about 23 hours a week in an activity considered unpleasant, or 40 more minutes than a typical man. Today, with men working less, the gap is 90 minutes.
John Grohol read the article and became suspicious. Are men really working less than they did in the 1960s? All the data he could find suggested the opposite. He tracked down the research behind the Times article. He found that both papers discussed in the Times are actually unpublished. The first paper, claiming that men work less now than 40 years ago, was clearly flawed. The second paper’s conclusions seemed a little more solid, but again didn’t seem to reflect the clear gains women have made in the last few decades. So Grohol did a little of his own analysis:
I ran the same analysis the authors did, but with the missing third set of data. Voila! The missing set of data from “Pretty Happy” shows a clear upward trend from 1972 to 2006, which far better accounts for the downward decline of the “Very Happy” responses amongst women. The “Not Happy” category remains virtually unchanged as a trendline. So yes, women are becoming more “Pretty Happy” and less “Very Happy.” Given these are completely subjective terms, and that women’s role in modern American society has significantly changed (largely for the better) since 1972, I’m not sure I’d read all that much into these data. Certainly not as much as the authors have.
The presentation had omitted the rating “Pretty Happy” and only considered women who said they were “Very Happy,” finding a small decline in those numbers. Are women really less happy than they were in the 1960s, with all the opportunities they have today? Grohol has what he believes is a simpler explanation:
Times have become more complex and simplistic questions that ask about people’s “general happiness” aren’t a very good nor accurate gauge of real happiness in our lives.
I’m not sure I’d dismiss the data as quickly as Grohol. Subjective ratings do tell us something, don’t they? Perhaps women are actually less satisfied with the array of choices available to them. But Grohol is certainly right in suggesting that the actual research isn’t nearly as clear-cut as the Times article suggests.