Reversing the Gender Gap in Life Satisfaction

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Date and Time: 
Thursday, October 13, 2016
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Life satisfaction surveys are increasingly being used as a measure of welfare (Stiglitz et al., 2009), and even proposed as a primary measure (Layard, 2005). On average around the world, surveys consistently find that women report higher life satisfaction than men. Yet, women are worse off in many of the characteristics they value most: they are less educated, have lower incomes, and have worse self-reported health. Policymakers the world over are pursuing legislation to improve the lives of women, who in many cases lack the rights and opportunities that men enjoy. If women are already happier than men, why should we focus on improving women's rights? Using recent data from the Gallup World Poll, I show that women are not happier than men; using anchoring vignettes, I show that the gap is due to women and men systematically using different response scales, and that once these scales have been normalized, women are less happy than men on average. The adjustment in the gap is heterogeneous across countries, and has some interesting correlates, such as with religion and the state of gender equality.