Gender and Wellbeing

Do you agree that on balance, clear and distinct gender roles (whatever they are) decrease the average wellbeing of the population?

  •  Doctor Chris  Barrington-LeighDoctor Chris Barrington-Leigh
    Agree
    I don't know of much literature on this, so I'll extrapolate on what I've seen from differences in life evaluations around the world (GWP) and their correlation with attitudes regarding gender, and a small literature, plus general knowledge. Clear and distinct gender roles are inseparable from a system of oppression of women, with effects such as alienation (in addition to material impacts), which we can expect to have a big impact on SWB. The oppression and reinforcement of gender roles, which confers material benefits to men, is carried out at considerable cost to men --- costs such as limited social intimacy, poor health behaviours, extra responsibility/stress, etc. It seems certain that removing these costs and redistributing the gains/power would be a net positive.

  •  Professor Arie  KapteynProfessor Arie Kapteyn
    Completely agree
    In most cases clear roles are code for inequality where one gender is priviliged relative to the other

  •  Professor Ruut  VeenhovenProfessor Ruut Veenhoven
    Agree
    Data show that with respect to life-satisfaction. One of the reasons seems to be that strict sex-roles reduce choice in how to live and makes that more people come to live a life that does not fit them too well. Though freedom of choice involves costs of choice, its benefits typically outbalance these costs

  •  Professor Richard  EasterlinProfessor Richard Easterlin
    Neither agree nor disagree
    Haven't seen any evidence on this.

  •  Professor Bruno  FreyProfessor Bruno Frey
    Neither agree nor disagree
    None

  •  Doctor Esteban  CalvoDoctor Esteban Calvo
    Agree
    I agree with the statement, assuming that clear and distinct gender roles are more likely to be traditional gender roles. However, clarity and distinctiveness might be less influential on wellbeing than the actual content of gender roles. Also, gender roles might be clear and distinct at a single moment, but flexible over time. Last but not least, I would imagine that the wellbeing impact of gender roles depends on both individual and societal values.

  •  Professor Mark   WoodenProfessor Mark Wooden
    Completely agree
    In developed, industrial societies, gender role attitudes have, especially over the last 4 to 5 decades, become more egalitarian (and hence gender roles have become less distinct). For some a?? those with very traditional views a?? this will be an unwelcome development, and thus may be associated with a decline in wellbeing. But on balance, such negative effects will be more than offset by the improvement in opportunities for women, and from the broader benefits of living in a society where there is more equal sharing of power and responsibilities.

  •  Professor Daniel  SgroiProfessor Daniel Sgroi
    Agree
    I am not aware of a huge amount of work in this area, but recent research by Heather Brown and Jennifer Roberts at Sheffield based on data from the British Household Panel Survey may provide some relevant guidance. For example, if women earn more than their husbands but still do more housework (perhaps because of the pressure on them to also act as homemakers) their wellbeing suffers. Similarly, males who see themselves as breadwinners have lower wellbeing when their wives earn more than they do. This suggests that gender biases based on traditional roles are persistent and damaging to wellbeing, especially in the face of welcome increases in equality in the workplace.

  •  Professor Ada  Ferrer-i-CarbonnellProfessor Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonnell
    Completely agree
    Although gender roles might simplify the lives of those who do not like to take decisions, it is detrimental to those who appreciate freedom of choice. Even though some literature seems to point that woman in sexist relationships are happier, we do not know the contrafactual of woman living in a society with no strong gender roles. Social pressure exerted on woman living in egalitarian households might be driving unhappiness rather than egalitarianism in itself. In addition, and also important, strong gender roles reduce equal opportunities across genders, which in the long term reduces well-being.

  •  Professor Stephen  WuProfessor Stephen Wu
    Neither agree nor disagree
    It is difficult to establish a causal effect of clear gender roles on wellbeing because these roles are generally slow to change within cultures over time, though there is some psychological evidence showing that gender role conflicts are correlated with lower wellbeing (particularly for men).

  •  Professor Paul  FrijtersProfessor Paul Frijters
    Disagree
    The available evidence suggests rather that individuals in Western countries are happiest when they are in relationships where the partners' behaviour conforms to a strong social norm on gender roles. Booth and Van Ours (2008) thus found for Australia that women are happier with part-time work (rather than full-time work) and with husbands who work full-time. Their interpretation is that gender identity (Akerlof and Kranton, 2000) is important for life-satisfaction, meaning that people are happier when they conform to societal norms about their roles. A similar hypothesis is fielded by Kornrich and Leupp (2013) who content that traditional marriages have a more active sex life (a measure of partnership joint production) in the US. Whilst these studies and several like it suggest that in previous decades individuals got satisfaction out of conforming to norms, this of course does not imply that individuals would not also thrive without gender norms. Yet it does imply that some notion of 'doing what is expected' is good for happiness. So some clear notion of 'what one should do' seems likely to be important for life satisfaction. Relevant to this, we know that high internal locus of control (the belief that one can affect important areas of life), high self-esteem, and low-anxiety are important for life satisfaction cement the likelihood that being able to follow norms that are particular to oneself and the things one can relate to are important. Since gender comes with pretty inescapable consequences, it does seem likely to me that some notion of clear gender roles that people can ascribe to and meet is important for life satisfaction, though this of course does not mean that these norms should be as they are today or as they were decades ago. Akerlof, G. A. and Kranton, R. E. (2000). Economics and identity. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115, 715a??53. Booth, A. L., & Van Ours, J. C. (2009). Hours of work and gender identity: Does parta??time work make the family happier?. Economica, 76(301), 176-196. Kornrich, S., Brines, J., & Leupp, K. (2013). Egalitarianism, housework, and sexual frequency in marriage. American Sociological Review, 78(1), 26-50.

  •  Professor Andreas  KnabeProfessor Andreas Knabe
    Agree
    Subjective well-being generally depends positively on norm conformity and is harmed if a person deviates from the respective social norm. However, different social subgroups can have different set of norms. If a person is able to choose which group to belong to, and thus the set of norms against which this person measures oneself, people can choose the social identity that is most beneficial for their well-being. In general, one cannot choose one's gender. This precludes wellbeing-enhancing identity choices and captures many people in the "wrong" set of norms. This suggests that clear and distinct gender roles tend to decrease average well-being.

  •  Doctor Maarten  Vendrik Doctor Maarten Vendrik
    Neither agree nor disagree
    On the one hand, Scandinavian countries with strong gender equality and high labour force participation of women, and hence less distinct gender roles, tend to be happier on average than other countries. On the other hand, Stevenson and Wolfers (2009) have shown that in the USA between 1972 and 2006, womena??s happiness declined both absolutely and relative to male happiness while the latter did not significantly change. In Europe in the same period, womena??s happiness declined relative to male happiness, but not absolutely (for both genders happiness increased). Thus, women seem to have profited less from their emancipation than men, and at least in the USA the resulting effect on the average wellbeing of the population as a whole may well have been negative! This may be due to the development of less clear and distinct gender roles leaving working women with a double burden of market and household work as well as increasing competition with men in the labour market. This possibility is consistent with a preliminary and unpublished finding of Borghans and myself (2011) that within European countries in 2004-2008, women are often happier in regions with a lower female labour force participation (although across European countries, women tend to be happier in countries with a higher FLP). Furthermore, Booth and Jan van Ours (2006, 2007) found that in Australia and Great Britain part-time working women are more satisfied with working hours than full-time working women (but in GB women with children are significantly happier if they have a job). Finally, Bessems (2008) found that in countries with a higher part-time as opposed to full-time and no FLP, the subjective wellbeing of schoolchildren is higher (in particular, in the Netherlands). Thus, overall clear and distinct gender roles may increase rather than decrease the average well-being of a population!

  •  Professor Daniel  SgroiProfessor Daniel Sgroi
    Agree
    I am not aware of a huge amount of work in this area, but recent research by Heather Brown and Jennifer Roberts at Sheffield based on data from the British Household Panel Survey may provide some relevant guidance. For example, if women earn more than their husbands but still do more housework (perhaps because of the pressure on them to also act as homemakers) their wellbeing suffers. Similarly, males who see themselves as breadwinners have lower wellbeing when their wives earn more than they do. This suggests that gender biases based on traditional roles are persistent and damaging to wellbeing, especially in the face of welcome increases in equality in the workplace.

  •  Doctor Jan-Emmanuel   De NeveDoctor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve
    Neither agree nor disagree
    None

  •  Doctor Arthur  RobsonDoctor Arthur Robson
    Agree
    None

  •  Professor Leonardo  BechettiProfessor Leonardo Bechetti
    Disagree
    I believe that differences in sexes exist and diversity is a value. Empirical evidence from behavioral economics confirm these differences and find that women are relatively more risk averse, inequality averse and "competition averse"

  •  Professor Homa  ZarghameeProfessor Homa Zarghamee
    Agree
    None

  •  Professor Andrew  ClarkProfessor Andrew Clark
    Neither agree nor disagree
    I would have thought that this cuts both ways: some may feel diminished by having their expected outcomes prescribed for them, and some may feel reassured by it (so somewhat like religion in this sense). It may also pander to individuals who have a taste for discrimination.

  •  Doctor Anke   Plagnol Doctor Anke Plagnol
    Agree
    It depends on the implications of these gender roles. In many societies, families need two incomes. However, if distinct gender roles imply that the woman is in charge of childcare, household chores and also the mental load connected to these gendered tasks (i.e. organising birthday parties, scheduling doctors appointments, etc.) in addition to her paid work, then it is quite likely that she will experience stress and lower wellbeing due to this "double shift" (work-life balance and it's opposite, work-life conflict, is associated with wellbeing). Distinct gender roles, and the expectations that come with them can be stressful for both genders. For example, high career expectations for men who are supposed to be the main breadwinner. Distinct gender roles may also imply gender inequality in the workplace (leading to lower job satisfaction for women), in addition to gender inequality in politics, education and unpaid work.

  •  Professor Martin  BinderProfessor Martin Binder
    Neither agree nor disagree
    None

  •  Professor Alois  StutzerProfessor Alois Stutzer
    Disagree
    There will always be gender roles, some of them functional and some of them in need of change because they have become disfunctional and to the disadvantage of either women or men given the technological change.





Do you agree that an active policy that discourages any particular gender role narrative is likely to increase the average wellbeing of the population?

  •  Doctor Chris  Barrington-LeighDoctor Chris Barrington-Leigh
    Agree
    I think if worded slightly differently this would follow from my first answer, though naturally such policies need to avoid alienation and limit overt constraints. However, supporting freedom and fluidity of gender roles may be a better approach where sufficient.

  •  Professor Arie  KapteynProfessor Arie Kapteyn
    Completely agree
    This follows from the previous question.

  •  Professor Ruut  VeenhovenProfessor Ruut Veenhoven
    Agree
    Such policies support a wider autonomous tendency towards less ascriptive role allocation and more individual choice in modern societies. As such they are likely to have contributed to the rising level of happiness in most modern nations over the last 50 years. Such emancipatory policies involve the risk of imposing the dominant culture to cultural minorities, which could reduce freedom and thereby happiness; the medicine being worse than the disease. This does not seem to be at hand in current open societies.

  •  Professor Richard  EasterlinProfessor Richard Easterlin
    Agree
    Haven't seen evidence on this.

  •  Professor Bruno  FreyProfessor Bruno Frey
    Disagree
    The question is who undertakes the "active policy". If it is the government it is likely to lead to "political correctness" which in turn tends to reduce wellbeing.

  •  Doctor Esteban  CalvoDoctor Esteban Calvo
    Agree
    Discouraging gender role narratives might be beneficial in today's world, where most existing narratives entail winners and losers, or a conflict between genders. This might change in the future.

  •  Professor Mark   WoodenProfessor Mark Wooden
    Neither agree nor disagree
    Any policy that reinforces a particular gender role will have negative impacts on the wellbeing of anyone who does not "fit" with those prescribed roles. It thus follows that a policy to actively discourage such narratives should enhance wellbeing. There will, however, be groups for whom any weakening in general gender roles will be welfare reducing, but my expectation is that in modern secular societies, this latter negative effect will be more than offset by the positive effects.

  •  Professor Daniel  SgroiProfessor Daniel Sgroi
    Agree
    Following on from my earlier answer, while there is not an overwhelming amount of research in this area (which suggests that we need more), what there is does seem consistent with common sense: it appears that gender role stereotyping puts pressure on both males and females and policy designed to overcome this is likely to help wellbeing.

  •  Professor Ada  Ferrer-i-CarbonnellProfessor Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonnell
    Completely agree
    From my answer above it follows that any policy aimed at discouraging gender roles helps increasing average well-being.

  •  Professor Stephen  WuProfessor Stephen Wu
    Agree
    Despite the difficulties in demonstrating a causal effect of gender roles on wellbeing, I would predict that providing more individuals with more freedom in expressing themselves would on balance improve overall wellbeing.

  •  Professor Paul  FrijtersProfessor Paul Frijters
    Disagree
    As indicated in the previous question, I think gender roles are an important aspect of identity and the capacity for happiness. That does not prescribe what those roles would optimally look like, which is a much more difficult question. But to deny gender roles and actively move towards a gender-free identity for men and women seems detrimental to life satisfaction.

  •  Professor Andreas  KnabeProfessor Andreas Knabe
    Agree
    Policies that help to increase people's options to live their life as they wish and to choose their social identity based on their own preferences should contribute to the average wellbeing of the population.

  •  Doctor Maarten  Vendrik Doctor Maarten Vendrik
    Neither agree nor disagree
    Although, on balance, clear and distinct gender roles may increase the average wellbeing of the population (see my comments to the first question), an active policy that discourages any particular gender role narrative may increase the average wellbeing of the population by promoting maximal freedom of choice and social tolerance for individual women and men to adopt the gender roles that they personally prefer the most. In this respect, Hakim (2000) in her book on work-life style preferences in the 21th century distinguishes three ideal types of women: home-centred women, adapters, and work-centred women. While the home-centred women prefer not to work in the market and work-centred women are strongly committed to market work, the largest group of adapters (40-80%) tries to combine market work and family activities. Furthermore, Inglehart et al. (2008) in their article on development, freedom, and rising happiness found that between 1981 and 2007, average happiness increased in most countries of the world as a result of increases in, among other factors, sense of free choice and social tolerance. This strongly suggests that promoting freedom in and social tolerance to the diverse choices of gender roles and work-life balance that individual women and men make, can raise their happiness. This includes freedom in and social tolerance to the gender role choices of homosexuals, trans-genders, etc. However, there may also exist certain labour demands from society that make particular gender roles desirable from a social-welfare point of view. For example, nowadays the aging of the population in many Western societies calls for more female workers in formal health and old-age care, which requires home-centred women to turn into adapters or work-centred. This would then contribute to the well-being of the old and the sick, and in this way increase the average wellbeing of the overall population.

  •  Professor Daniel  SgroiProfessor Daniel Sgroi
    Agree
    Following on from my earlier answer, while there is not an overwhelming amount of research in this area (which suggests that we need more), what there is does seem consistent with common sense: it appears that gender role stereotyping puts pressure on both males and females and policy designed to overcome this is likely to help wellbeing.

  •  Doctor Jan-Emmanuel   De NeveDoctor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve
    Agree
    n/a

  •  Doctor Arthur  RobsonDoctor Arthur Robson
    Agree
    People should be free to do whatever they choose within the law.

  •  Professor Leonardo  BechettiProfessor Leonardo Bechetti
    Disagree
    Empirical evidence shows that women's life satisfaction is reduced when they stick up to men's roles. Men and women have some specific characteristics that they must not neglect if they want to fulfill

  •  Professor Homa  ZarghameeProfessor Homa Zarghamee
    Agree
    Gender role narratives limit individual possibilities. The limited possibilities may limit the scope for regret or choice fatigue and thereby promote wellbeing. But I believe the greater freedom and absence of clear comparison points resulting from discouraging gender-role narratives would be more wellbeing promoting.

  •  Professor Andrew  ClarkProfessor Andrew Clark
    Neither agree nor disagree
    Not sure how my answer here should differ from that on the previous page. Anything that does not reduce capabilities (i.e. women can't go to university) can surely be discussed, in the way that we have discussed the gender pay gap for so long.

  •  Doctor Anke   Plagnol Doctor Anke Plagnol
    Completely agree
    Yes, for example parental leave policies that emphasise and strongly encourage that both partners share parental leave equally. Such policies are likely to increase average wellbeing in several ways: 1. They could reduce gender discrimination for women in the workplace because employers would no longer believe that only women go on parental leave (which would be good for job satisfaction. In addition, women would be more likely to remain in the labour force, which would be good for their pensions and thus potentially their wellbeing later in life). 2. Shared parental leave may lead to a more balanced sharing of care work and other unpaid work even after the leave has ended. This could improve marital satisfaction and reduce the negative wellbeing impact of the "double shift" that women often experience. 3. More involvement by fathers in childcare, which would be strongly encouraged by shared parental leave, may also be good for children's wellbeing.

  •  Professor Martin  BinderProfessor Martin Binder
    Agree
    -

  •  Professor Alois  StutzerProfessor Alois Stutzer
    Disagree
    This is not an area of top-down policy interventions. Consensus has to be found regarding fundamental rights and basic institutions but not at all with regard to the "correct" narrative.