The National Bureau of Economic Research released a study to be published soon in the American Economic Journal that shows women's happiness has measurably declined since 1970. It's no surprise that this has stimulated much comment.
This study covers the same time period as the rise of the so-called women's liberation or feminist movement. The correlation demands an explanation. You can read the entire study at www.eagleforum.org/links.
One theory advanced by the authors, University of Pennsylvania economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, is that the women's liberation movement "raised women's expectations" (sold them a bill of goods), making them feel inadequate when they fail to have it all. A second theory is that the demands on women who are both mothers and jobholders in the labor force are overwhelming.
I'm neither an economist nor a psychologist, but I'll join the conversation with my own armchair analysis. Another theory could be that the feminist movement taught women to see themselves as victims of an oppressive patriarchy in which their true worth will never be recognized and any success is beyond their reach.
Feminist organizations such as the National Organization for Women held consciousness-raising sessions where they exchanged tales of how badly some man had treated them. Grievances are like flowers -- if you water them, they will grow, and self-imposed victimhood is not a recipe for happiness.
Another theory could be the increase in easy divorce and illegitimacy (now 40 percent of American births are to single moms), which means that millions of women are raising kids without a husband and therefore expect Big Brother government to substitute as provider. The 2008 election returns showed that 70 percent of unmarried women voted for Barack Obama, perhaps hoping to be beneficiaries of his "spread the wealth" policies.
In the pre-1970 era, when surveys showed women with higher levels of happiness, most men held jobs that enabled their wives to be fulltime homemakers. The private enterprise system constantly produces goods that make household work and kiddie care easier (such as dryers, dishwashers and paper diapers).
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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