Thursday, October 23, 2014

Buy and sell that happy ass

In 2002 and 2012 the GSS queried married respondents on their incomes relative to that of their spouse's incomes. Cross-referencing it with a self-report on personal happiness doesn't quite shake out the way I guessed it would have. Due to a modest total sample size (n = 691) across six categories, I didn't attempt to control for any variables. It's an as is picture.

To compute a simple happiness index, the percentage of respondents in each category who self-describe as "not too happy" is subtracted from the percentage who say they are "very happy", with the "pretty happy" middling option ignored. Happiness scores among men by whether they make more, the same, or less than their wives:

Men earning...Happy

The differences are pretty modest. I suspected the gap between men keeping pace with their wives and those unable to do so would be larger than the one between men who earn more than their wives and those who make the same as their wives do, but that's not the case.

Women earning...Happy

This result is more surprising. More domineering manjaws and a corresponding increase in the number of manboobs today relative to the past? Some of the putative subjective benefits of female empowerment? A meaningless result based on an arbitrary self-description that might vary from day to day depending on the mood the participant was in when she completed the survey?

It is interesting that for both men and women, income on par with one's spouse is not an obvious positive psychological feature, as the lowest scores for both involve income parity among couples. It seems plausible that this sort of arrangement could cause tension at home, since the presumption on both sides is that since both are contributing equally economically, both should contribute equally on the home front, with any deviation from that arrangement making it seem as though the slacker is shirking his duty. I bring home the bacon, my wife keeps up the house and does the lioness' share of work raising our son. That's the societal ideal.

GSS variables used: EARNSHH(1-3)(4)(5-7), SEX(1)(2), HAPPY


IHTG said...

It seems likely that households where the women earn more tend to come from a particular social class that is happier in general.

This kind of thing HAS to control for income.

Audacious Epigone said...


Yeah, you're correct. Cutting groups up by income makes the low earning male and high earning female samples too small to be of any use.

Anonymous said...

Generally, people who make more money relative to the average person are probably slightly happier.

People who make more money than their spouses tend to make more money relative to the average person.

In women this is probably offset by the fact that many women who make less money than their husband have a successful and richer husband (good for happiness).

While in men, those who make less than their wife probably don't benefit from extra effective income via a particularly rich or successful wife (because of hypergamy, etc.).

Basically, probably not much of an effect here once you partial out actual income and spouses's income.

Men probably aren't too much in competition to earn more than their wife, in actuality, provided their wife doesn't take the opportunity to up and actually leave them.