Are Women Happier Than Men? Do Gender Rights Make A Difference?

I have been working on well-being and happiness in economics for more than two decades. The research—based on the work of scholars around the world—finds consistent patterns in the determinants of life satisfaction across millions of respondents. These include income (yes it matters but not as much as you might think), health (matters a lot), employment, families and friendships, and age (there is a mid-life dip in well-being that holds across most people and countries around the world). A question that always comes up, though, is “are women happier than men?” The answer is “yes, but it’s complicated”—and at times in surprising ways.

In a 2013 study of happiness and gender, based on Gallup World Poll data for 160 countries, Soumya Chattopadhyay and I explored that basic question. Women around the world report higher levels of life satisfaction than men, but at the same time report more daily stress. And while this finding holds across countries on average, it does not hold in countries where gender rights are compromised, as in much of the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. The gap between women and men’s well-being is greater (e.g., women are that much happier than men) in wealthier contexts, among more educated and older cohorts, and in urban areas. While there seems to be a modest gender difference in life satisfaction, it does not hold when women’s rights are compromised.

We also found that the typically positive links between life satisfaction and marriage were much weaker in the same countries with compromised gender rights, where marriage is often an imposed norm rather than a choice. Indeed, it was the married men who were happier than the unmarried in these countries, not the married women. More generally, the common finding that married people are happier than non-married people is in part due to selection bias: happier people are more likely to get married. By construction most cross-section studies—which are at one point in time—are simply comparing the higher happiness levels of those individuals who married each other versus those who did not marry.

As Claudia Senik and colleagues find, the actual effects of getting married (which we can explore with over-time data on the same people) last approximately 18 months, after which people adapt to their pre-marriage happiness levels. Meanwhile, divorce (in rich countries) is most common when there are asymmetries in happiness levels within couples; in other words it seems that it is better to have two happy people or two unhappy people married to each other, rather than one happy and one unhappy person in the same partnership. Unhappily married women in countries with compromised gender rights, meanwhile, are much less likely to be able to divorce if they would like to.

The logical conclusion, then, is that once women’s rights improve, their life satisfaction levels will increase. Yet while women’s rights undoubtedly improved with a host of changes that occurred during the 1970s, there was a “paradox of declining female happiness” in the decades after gender rights improved, as found by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers. Rafael Levine and Alois Stutzer (2010) discovered a similar pattern in Switzerland, one of the last wealthy countries to give women the right to vote in 1971 (!). A national referendum (common for the Swiss) was passed in 1981 that mandated equal pay for equal work, giving them a natural experiment to explore its effects on gender differences in well-being. The authors were able to compare the differences in cantons that voted for the amendment versus those that did not. One would think that women would be happier in the cantons that voted for equal pay. Instead, the opposite occured and female happiness fell precisely in those cantons, compared to in those that did not vote for equal pay.

What explains this? First, these trends reversed over time. A later study of women’s happiness in the U.S. based on data that covered a later time period—1985 to 2005—by Chris Herbst  found that men’s happiness declined more than women’s in that period, beginning in the late 1980s, while the decline for women slowed down significantly, reversing the gender gap in happiness. And over time in Switzerland, the differences across the cantons also declined. One reason for the initial decline is that when unequal gender rights are amended with legislation, established gender norms lag, and that may be particularly strong within households, creating new tensions, especially for working women.

My own experience, entering the labor force in the 1980s and having children in the 1990s was that being a full-time working mother was often seen as a choice between being a “good” mother and working. Many of my impressive colleagues and predecessors at Brookings—such as Alice Rivlin, Belle Sawhill, and Janet Yellen—no doubt faced even more such challenges in previous decades. By now, that choice seems a straw man. College completion and full-time work are now the rule rather than the exception for most women (at least those with means).

The gaps in well-being between unemployed and out-of-labor-force women and their counterparts in other labor market categories are much smaller than those for men.

Indeed, in the U.S. today, there is much more concern about declining male happiness and, more importantly, hope—particularly among less-than-college-educated white men. Kelsey O’Connor and I, based on data from the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics for the U.S., find that individuals born in the 1930s and 1940s who reported to be optimistic in their twenties were much more likely to still be alive in 2015 than were non-optimists. While optimism among women and African Americans gradually increased after gender and civil rights improved (again with a lag) the one group that decreased in optimism was less-than-college-educated white men. And since that time, minorities have continued to make gradual progress on both education and health fronts, while discrimination decreased (but certainly did not disappear), and more women entered the labor market.

The decline in men’s well-being began in the late 1970s, coinciding with the first decline of manufacturing, and has continued since. The erosion of stable blue-collar jobs due to both changes in labor market demand and supply (individuals with only a high school education do not have the skills to compete in today’s labor markets) has been a major factor in this trend. The trend is starkest for white men who previously had privileged access to good blue-collar jobs and to a stable middle-class existence—and that existence was very much a part of their identity as breadwinners. Not surprisingly, men suffer greater drops in well-being when they become unemployed than do women.

In contrast, the gaps in well-being between unemployed and out-of-labor-force women and their counterparts in other labor market categories are much smaller than those for men. This is likely due to women’s ability to multitask and to have multiple identities as mothers or caregivers, among other things, in addition to working. While that is often stress inducing, it also seems to be (somewhat) protective of psychological well-being.

These well-being declines matter to life outcomes. Less-than-college-educated white men—and particularly those who are unemployed or out of the labor force—are overrepresented in the crisis of deaths of despair (premature mortality due to suicide, drug overdose, and liver disease) that has taken over 1 million lives in the U.S. in the past two decades.

In sum, in wealthy places women’s happiness is typically higher than men’s, even when they are in less privileged jobs and lifestyles. Yet in many developing countries where women’s rights are compromised, women do not experience that same happiness differential. In addition, strong gender norms—which are preclusive of women giving honest responses—can affect the accuracy of their life satisfaction scores. Malorie Montgomery tests for this bias using vignette research. This approach asks respondents to rank their expected happiness in a series of different scenarios (in this case a range of lifestyles involving different levels of freedom and opportunities for women). She finds that women’s rankings of the desirability of these lifestyles often differ markedly from their general life satisfaction scores. Adjusting for this bias, she finds that the around-the-world gender gap in well-being remains but is substantially smaller, driven by countries where strong gender norms preclude honest life satisfaction reports.

While women’s rights have advanced a great deal in most wealthy countries, there are still many poor women around the world whose lives—and well-being—will remain compromised for the foreseeable future. And, as the trajectory of those countries who have already improved equity in gender rights shows, the process is far from simple and does not end with legal changes alone.

This piece is part of 19A: The Brookings Gender Equality Series.

Pistachio & Chewy Strawberry Shortbread Cookies (Eggless)

These cookies are not only pretty but tastes yum and with a texture so light that it’s an absolute delight in your mouth. This melt-in-your-mouth texture with crunchy pistachios and chewy dry strawberries are irresistible. Do give it a try! How I developed this recipe- I had been looking for a shortbread recipe that calls for a perfect ratio of flour:butter:sugar giving the right texture and sweetness; which would also not spread out on baking that is retains its shape on baking. And I achieved that after many trials with this recipe. It’s adorned with the prettiest additions- green pistas and jewel red strawberries, making it a must try recipe to treat your family right! What’s special about this recipe- Texture & Sweetness- This light shortbread is not just a buttery goodness, but also not sick sweet. Pistachios & Strawberries- This green & red jewels add to the awesomeness of this shortbread. Pistachios not only add crunch to the cookies but are one of the most healthiest nuts loaded with good fats and calcium. Strawberries on other hand have berrylicious vitamins and antioxidants also adding a tart-chewiness to the cookie. What you’ll need- 3/4 cup raw pistachios, chopped 3/4 cup chewy dry strawberries, chopped 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar1/2 teaspoon salt How to make-

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius.
  • Toast and chop the pistachios till lightly browned. Chop the strawberries and pistachios.
  • Mix up the butter, sugar & flour in a stand mixer with paddle attachment until combined into an even dough.
  • Add in the pistachios and strawberries. Mix well.
  • Chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour until the dough is flexible and non-sticky, so that you could now roll them out (~half inch thick) and cut into floral or round shaped cookies as you prefer.
  • Bake on a lined preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Until lightly browned on the edges.
  • Let them cool for 5 minutes on the tray out of the oven and then completely cool them on a wire rack before transferring them into a cookie jar.

 Notes, tips and suggestions- . You could use different types of your favourite dry fruits in this recipe- I would suggest one type of nut and a dry berry substitutes in the place of pistas and strawberries. e.g. cashews & raisins, almonds & cranberries.etc. . These cookies keep good in an airtight container at room temperature for almost a week.

Punjabi Aloo Mutter Samosa

Samosas are an all-time favourite snack mostly for the Indians. And no one could resist a bite of hot and crispy samosas especially on a rainy day. These samosas are quite different from my caramelised onion & beef samosa recipe as this is very Punjabi and tastes very desi too. It’s a party snack, yummy appetiser and a mid-day treat.. How I developed this recipe- The authentic indian samosa is hard to get even at renowned Indian restaurants. And that’s because Indians have samosas in many different forms- veg/non-veg, different wrappers.etc. Even I have tasted this versatility many times. This Punjabi samosa won my heart for its great ajwain-ghee flavoured crispy wrap and of-course the easy filling. And I guarantee that this will be the best Punjabi samosa you’ll ever make, as I learnt it referring to a Punjabi Chef’s tutorial. What’s special about this recipe– Ghee- Also known as ‘clarified butter’ does not only possess quite a lot of medicinal properties but also has an unique flavour that contributes to the authentic Indian flavour. Ajwain & jeera- Both these spices aid in better digestion and fight flatulence during the digestion of potato and white flour. Yummy filling- Potatoes, green chillies, peas sautéed and mildly spiced makes the easiest and scrumptious filling ever that can be made with the simplest and most humble ingredients from your kitchen pantry. What you’ll need- For the filling-. 2 medium-sized boiled, peeled & chopped potatoes . 1 finely chopped long green chilli. 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves. 1/4 cup frozen green peas. 1/2of an onion, chopped . 1-inch ginger, grated. 1 teaspoon minced garlic . 1/2 tsp cumin powder. 1/2 tsp red chilli powder . 1/2 tsp coriander powder . 1/4 tsp cumin seeds.  1/4 tsp mustard seeds. Juice from 1/2 a lime. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil like sunflower/canola. 1 teaspoon ghee. Salt to taste. Oil for frying  For the wrap-. 1 cup refined white wheat flour . 3 teaspoons of ghee. Half teaspoon ajwain seeds. Half teaspoon salt . Water -as required  How to make – For the filling-. Splutter the cumin & mustard seeds heating the oil and sauté onion, garlic, ginger & green chillies till onion turns light golden.. Add the spice powders and sauté for a minute till the raw smell goes.. Now add potatoes, green peas, lime juice , ghee, coriander and salt to taste.. Cook for a minute, mash a bit, turn of the heat and let it cool completely. For the wrap-. Combine the dry ingredients , add ghee to it and rub with your fingers for a fine bread-like mix.. Add water in tablespoons just enough to knead to a dough.. Cover and rest this for 20 minutes. Preparing samosas-. Roll out the dough into a log, cut out 6 equal pieces and roll these into individual balls.. Roll out each into palm-sized circles and cut it into halves (semicircles). Wet the straight-side (diameter)of the semicircular dough piece with few drops of water and fold it into a cone.. Fill these cones with the potatoes-peas filling and seal the top sticking together the dough flaps to a straight line with a few drop of water.. This recipe makes a total of 12 samosas.. Deep fry these heating vegetable oil and drain onto a paper towel.. Serve hot with chutney. Notes, tips & suggestions- . You could always make the dough & filling ahead. Keep these frozen and thaw before using. The dough stays good frozen for 6 months and the filling for a week.. This samosa tastes heavenly with mint-coriander chutney/ sweet & spicy tamarind chutney as dips.

Weight-watcher’s Garlic & Scrambled Egg Brown Rice

This is a super healthy recipe for fit-eaters who looks for protein & fibre in everything they eat. It’s not just wholesome but very tasty that I’m very sure that this easy recipe is something everyone would want to follow  often. How I developed this recipe- I had been into a lot of desserts nowadays satisfying my sweet-toothed family’s all kinds of sugar cravings. First because people are mostly home during these corona days and secondly because I love making desserts so much that I never miss an opportunity to make them. Due to all these, everyone started gaining weight and we were forced to decide to cut sugar, fibre less carbs (white flour, white rice..) etc.Egg fried rice is one of my family’s all-time dishes, but everyone were missing it soo badly over the past few days due to the newly set dietary restrictions.This is what made me think about a new healthier version of this classic dish with the wholesome goodness of brown rice and added proteins. What’s special about this recipe- Brown rice- This gluten-free fibre-rice diabetic friendly substitute for regular white rice is easy to make and is highly nutritious. High protein- This is a protein packed recipe as it includes eggs and peas, thus helping in maintaining muscle mass and staying slim-fit. You could also add blanched spinach for added protein. Good fats- Even though only a very little oil is used in this recipe, the oil used are of healthy fats, such as peanut oil & sesame oil. What you’ll need- . 1 cup brown rice, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes & drained . 3 cups water. Half teaspoon salt . 2 tablespoons chopped shallots . 2 tablespoons chopped spring onions (bulbous white bottom part). 1 tablespoon minced garlic . 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger . 2 finely chopped green chillies . 1/3 cup frozen green peas / frozen or canned edamame .2-3 beaten eggs- with a pinch of salt and pepper.. 1-2 teaspoons soy sauce. 1-2 teaspoons fish sauce. 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine/ sherry/ Shaoxing (optional). 1 teaspoon white vinegar . 2 tablespoons peanut oil. 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil. 2 tablespoons chopped spring onion greens . 1-2 teaspoons white sesame. 1 tablespoon chopped garlic . 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (& stems). Extra 1 tablespoon peanut oil How to make- . Heat 3 cups of water with salt until it reaches a rolling boil. Now add the rice,  cover & cook on simmering after it starts to boil again with the rice in the pot.. Cook the rice like this for 15 minutes and turn of the heat after fluffing up the rice a bit. You would notice that a few tablespoons of water is still left in the bottom of the pan. But don’t worry, because the rice will keep on cooking in the residual heat with the lid on, even after you take it off from the heat and thus, all the water will be absorbed after a few more minutes.. Scramble the eggs in a non-stick wok, heating a little oil and keep it aside, transferring to a bowl.. Now sauté the shallots,spring onion whites, green chillies, green peas, ginger and minced garlic for a minute.. Add the pepper, sauces, wine & vinegar. . Stir in the cooked rice and combine everything on low heat.  Check salt level and add more soy sauce/fish sauce into the rice, at this point, if needed.. Now stir in the eggs and spring onion greens. . Finally brown the chopped garlic in a smaller pan with little oil and stir in the chopped coriander leaves into this garlic. .Top the rice with this browned garlic mix, drizzle with toasted sesame oil and sprinkle white sesame on top before serving. Notes, tips and suggestions- . It’s more easier and tastier to use rice that’s cooked a day ahead and refrigerated overnight.. For a vegan option you substitute eggs with tofu scrambled the same way and omit fish sauce by adding 2 teaspoons of extra soy sauce. 

Top Technologist Simplifies Ventilator By Inventing An Affordable Design

Ravinder Pal Singh, shies away from attention, despite the fact that he’s one of the world’s most sought out experts in the field of Artificial Intelligence, Innovation and Robotics. Ravinder Pal Singh (Ravi), is an award winning Technologist, Rescue Pilot and Angel Investor with several patents. As an inventor, engineer, investor, highly sought global speaker and storyteller, his body of work focuses on making a difference within acute constraints of culture and cash, mostly via commodity technology. Ravi’s latest invention is arguably the world’s most affordable ventilator and what has fuelled him, in his own words, is – “Fear of human contact is not sustainable for civilization. Everyone has to contribute to overcome this fatigue and fatality of fear”.
 
His latest visionary creation is a blueprint to help humanity in the fight for survival against one of the most challenging health crises in the recent past. The impact of COVID-19 has prompted a reluctant but much needed change. According to Ravi, the cost of life should not come at the price of lifestyle. Intent for compassion has to translate into actual actions by everyone and everywhere and every day.
 
Disparity and imbalance take resources away from most people to live a basic life, so a minority can afford an expensive (lavish) lifestyle, and this is no longer sustainable. Secondly, the world, till now, has been driven by collaboration of conflict (potential of war) and/or economics (fiscal prudence), which should be changed towards collaboration to survive, keeping health as a priority. Healthcare infrastructures across countries needs to be revisited and global uniformity has to be established.
 
Thirdly, how we design our lives – places where we live, places where we work, places where we interact – should all change. The glorification of creating mega cities is no longer sustainable. In fact, the history of the demise of past civilizations has a commonality of 4 factors — A combination of an epidemic plus population movements plus the pressure urbanization put on rural lifestyles as well as climate change. There is still merit in non-political Gandhian theories based on – De-centralization and Micro Markets, Rural development (ideal cluster of villages), Self-sufficiency while living harmoniously with nature and a greater equity or “distributive justice via creating institutions than solely profit driven businesses.
 
The inspiration for Ravi’s latest invention came from his own experience at the frontlines. The world faces a severe and acute public health emergency due to the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic. It is a stark truth that COVID-19 can require patients to be on ventilators for significant periods of time and that hospitals can only accommodate a finite number of patients at once. Ventilator shortages are an unfortunate reality as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to worsen globally.
 
Ventilators are expensive pieces of machinery to maintain, store and operate. They also require ongoing monitoring by health-care professionals. To solve the above situation, Ravi has invented and prototyped an affordable ventilator for all, using a minimalistic design which can be easily operated by anyone. The key design element is the ability to build it quickly for mass production so governments around the world can encourage existing industrial setups and start-ups to manufacture them locally to help save lives.
 
Ravi was baffled with the thought of why one would require an engineering degree to design, produce and manufacture a ventilator.  He has built two different working prototypes on common platform design.
 
The first version is the simplest and is an extremely portable ventilator, one which is intuitive, can be used by anyone and fundamentally takes air from the atmosphere, extracts oxygen, controls pressure and pushes the output to the lungs. The second one is an advanced version of this particular ventilator.
 
It is on a similar design platform which converges artificial intelligence with electrical, mechanical, electronics and instrumentation,  with the capability to supply pure oxygen. It has self calibration capabilities, a machine learning algorithm to adjust the air flow according to the needs and the resistive nature of the lungs of any patient. Both of them are based on common platform design thinking and that’s the real beauty of his patented design and platform thinking. The reason to work and produce outcomes has become purified through the stark reality of death. Driving Ravi’s imagination and the core to all of his inventions is the burning desire to create a meaningful body of work through compassion oriented design and architectural forms.
 
Ravinder Pal Singh (Ravi) is a Harvard Alumni and Award Winning Engineer with over several hundred Global Recognitions and Patents. His body of work, mostly 1st in the world, is making a difference within acute constraints of culture and cash via commodity technology. He has been acknowledged as one of the world’s top 10 Robotics Designers, #1 Artificial Intelligence Leaders in Asia and featured as one of the world’s top 25 CIOs. Ravi is currently employed as the Chief Innovation and Information Officer at Tata Singapore Airlines (Vistara). Ravi is the advisor to a board of nine enterprises where incubation and differentiation is a core necessity and challenge. He sits on the advisory council of three global research firms where he contributes in predicting practical future automation use cases and respective technologies.email: [email protected]: www.ravinps.com