Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Paradox Of The Unhappy Woman

There have been a rash of stories lately to the effect that women were happier than men in the 1960s but now men are happier than women. While the provocative paper on which the stories are based seems straight ahead enough, I am inherently suspicious of reaching such overarching conclusions based on economic and social data. Yet my gut tells me that economist authors Betsey Johnson and Justin Wolfers are onto something.

This is because while women have made enormous strides in the past 40 years, not the least of which is having a control over their own bodies and destinies that would have been unfathomable in 1969, they are less happy and that diminished happiness cuts across class, social and racial lines.

Their place in the current recession, the worst and longest since the Great Depression, is ample evidence of why this may be so.

Women are on the verge of outnumbering men on the nation's payrolls for the first time, a milestone that would be worthy of celebrating until you realize that it's not because women have been doing so well, but because they are increasingly bearing the burden of being breadwinners.

We're not talking fancy free women out on their own who are pulling down decent salaries and kicking up their heels on weekends, but women who have mouths to feed, possibly including those of their unemployed spouses if they're married, and still have mouths to feed if they are single or divorced.

Factor in the omnipresent glass ceiling and the continuing disparity in women's wages, and it's not hard to see why so many women are unhappy.

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