Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No, Woman, No Cry /
Women and (Un)happiness

FreakonomicsImage via WikipediaSteven Levitt, author of the provocative book Freakonomics, is an economist who tries to explain social phenomena through statistics. A piece he wrote last fall focused on the subject of Women's Unhappiness. Levitt, borrowing from the work of two other economists, is puzzled by a strange coincidence: as women have gained more power (in measures such as education, pay, and reproductive rights) their happiness has gone down. The author offers four possible explanations for this surprising result. Click on the title above or HERE to read the full (one page long) piece. How plausible do you find his explanations?
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10 comments:

Brandon said...

I don't think that the results are that plausible. I skimmed through some of the comments on that article: "Josh" (comment number 11) linked this site which explains why the study could be inaccurate.

I also agree with "misterb" (comment number 13) who wrote: "As presented by Lieberman, only the credulous will take these kinds of “studies” with any kind of seriousness. Particularly something as amorphously defined as “happiness”. Ultimately, things have changed for most women since the 1970’s, and they may perceive these changes as affecting their happiness, but who’s to say that “happiness” hasn’t changed more?"

I think that "happiness" has definitely changed. In class we went over a 1965 study of twenty American values and what makes them happy. Our class's list of values was completely different in that we were much more materialistic. Maybe this is because of where me live more than when we live, but I don't know how someone can measure the change in happiness levels if the definition of happiness itself is changing. Maybe if we thought happiness the same way as people did forty years ago, then maybe we would be just as "happy".

Bernadette said...

I agree with Brandon that the article might not be right on. I don't necessarily think womens' levels of happiness have changed but the expectation of happiness. The ideal American woman used to be having a husband, a couple kids and a dog. But today I think the standards are higher. Women want not only the above mentioned, but material posessions, social or professional status and money. I'm not saying women have become more greedy, but they expect more from life. I think in the past women were told they were happy and that was that. But today when we have more freedom, we yearn for more, and this has lead to our unhappy trend.

Mark@NTHS said...

i agree with Bernadette in that i believe also that woman today just have higher standards for happiness. Where i believe girls feel pressured sometimes that if they don't have big aspirations for life than they are automatically sterotyped as a stay-at-home mom woman. Which also is kind of annoying when what is worng with being a stay-at-home mother, I don't think alot of us, me included, know for lack of a better word the burden a child brings into a life. I mean so much time is needed and devoted to bringing up this child and what is wrong if someone may see that giving their child the best life possible is giving up a career and staying with them. I think the bar has been set too high for woman in that if they want to be succesful and happy they have to be all the things bernadette mentioned and that is what is making them less happy.

Sara D said...

I agree with what everyone has said about the "new" expectations for happiness is. As we discussed in class, it used to be that as long as a woman was pure and was able to bare children and do the housework she was "happy" on some level. I think today times have changed in that women in general are looking for more than that. They are looking for power in general as well as in the workplace. Therefore I don't think that it's necessarily women are less happy, it is just the fact that women are proving to be more than child-makers and domestic people. I don't think that this increase hunger for power will ever settle to where women in general are "happy".

Doc OC said...

I like the way all four of you have argued with survey. But, it's easy to dismiss the results of the happiness survey out of hand. Isn't it worth considering that 1) the authors of the study are economists from one of the most highly regarded business schools (as opposed to the anonymous commentator "misterb" -- not "our Mr. B"! -- whom Brandon cites) and more importantly 2) doesn't Levitt cover some of your responses in his list of "alternative explanations" (nos. 2, 3, and 4, specifically)?

Mark@NTHS said...

I agree wiht you Mr. O'Connor that all his points (2,3,4) all do make great sense with atleast what i wanted my point to come off as and i think it did take me a second time today to go back over what Mr Levitt was saying to fully grasp his point in comparing woman today and what they do. And when i say the bar is set too high for happiness for woman today i think his point (2,3,4) all parralel to that idea, in that if woman are more like men, woman are goign to want high poweer profils and jobs just like men and woman being opn with their feelings and the way they express those feelings some how gives them the right to complain how they'ree not happy if they're not succesful in the ongoing competition to see whos better and as Mr. Levitt most eloquently said that "the declerations of happiness leave alot to be desired as outcome measures." (poiny 4) nad by syaing this is saying that as time goes on and people grow and this competition keeps going that these ideas will be muddled by into not being legitimate because to be happy is to be almost a super hero because the bar has been set so high.

Hannah D. said...

I agree with everyone. It is true that Mr. Levitt's arguments(2,3,4) really do make sense,especially the one about the femenist movement in the 1970s. Women back then were happier simply because of the fact that they were not treated the same as men, not in a bad way or anything. What I am saying is that women in the 70s did not have as much freedom to say what they felt, so they always seemed happy, but now they have the exact same freedoms as men and are not.
One thing I found interesting was that Levitt said that "Women with kids have fared worse than women without kids." I think this is interesting because usually women are happy to have kids and be mothers, and the women without kids are the ones who tend to have not as good of an aire to them.

JKlei said...

After reading the article all of the options i guess are possibilities but I personally feel that the one about the femenist movement during the 1970's is most logical. Women were quite happy and pleased back then about how they were treated and thought that it would continue to grow substanially but their "improvements" have leveled off somewhat. Also, in response to Hannah's comment I think mothers are less happy because children are very stressful with all their activities and needs and with college tuition quite expensive mothers cant be too happy.

Harlesbarkly said...

I just finished reading Steven Levitt's explanation in the one page paper that states what he believes are some plausible reasons for the current unhappiness of women. I disagree on the issue that "Women’s lives have become more like men’s over the last 35 years. Men have historically been less happy than women." Sure women's kobs are more like mens but i believe that all forms of work cause stress. I once had to babysit my cousin, who was 2, and it was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. After the experience I went straight to the gym to take my anger out by running a good 3 miles. Womans past jobs, in my oppion were just as stressful as any male dominant jobs at the time, therefore the fact that they now share the same jobs as men should not affect their happiness. I personally agree with statements 3,4 that women used the mask of happiness to hide the fact that they were unhappy because they feared that if they did not fit the proper image a "proper Woman" they would be punished. Also, that the people doing the survey manipulated the data to look better at the time because they did not want men, who dominated society at the time, to look poorly. This is just a quick and brief interpretation on my part. Lastly, how do you judge happiness? By wealth, peace, family, prosperity, cultural growth, success, failure? I believe that joy is impossible to judge.

Elizabeth L said...

well did they ever look at mens happiness? probably not considering that men have always been in power so they have always been grumpy or happy.... hahha kidding. but just putting it out there.