National gender inequality does not predict life satisfaction differences between men and women

Gender inequality does not appear to have a major impact on the difference between men’s and women’s satisfaction with life, according to a statistical analysis of 44 years of research. However, greater inequality is associated with reduced job satisfaction among women.

The new findings have been published in the journal Psychological Science.

“Despite great strides women have made over the past several decades, the subject of gender inequalities has continued to be a subject of attention not only in the United States, but across the globe,” said study author Cassondra Batz-Barbarich of Purdue University.

“The impact of gender inequality has been broadly examined in terms of the economic consequences but not in terms of subjective well-being, or one’s satisfaction with life or one’s satisfaction with work. While the question of the impact of gender inequality on men and women’s relative happiness had been asked in a few prior studies, results have been inconclusive. I was interested in examining this across all prior studies through a meta-analysis.”

For their meta-analysis, the researchers examined 428 previous research articles which included more than 1 million participants across 106 countries. They found that men and women reported equivalent life satisfaction overall, but women reported lower job satisfaction than did men.

Batz-Barbarich and her colleagues also analyzed the potential influences of age, national gender inequality index, economic indicators, time period of data collection, and geographic region on life or job satisfaction. Gender inequality had an effect on job satisfaction, but not life satisfaction. The other variables had no significant effect.

“First, across all prior studies examining gender differences in well-being, men and women appear to be similarly satisfied with their life overall. Women and men report equal levels of life satisfaction which is not predicted by national gender inequality,” Batz-Barbarich told PsyPost.

“Second, in nations with greater gender inequality, women are less satisfied with their work than men. It appears that gender inequality is related to differences in well-being between men and women on work satisfaction but not life satisfaction.”

The study — like all research — includes some limitations.

“One major caveat is that the scientific method focuses on averages between men and women but we do not make the claim that inequalities impact all women or men in exactly the same manner,” Batz-Barbarich explained.

“The impact on gender inequality is a complex one that still warrants further work. In this study, we found that gender inequality did not predict gender differences in life satisfaction but predicted gender differences in work satisfaction.”

“Part of the reason may be that life satisfaction is based on a collection of different experiences where women and men may find different routes to living a satisfying life, despite gender inequality. However, work satisfaction may more specifically reflect experiences of gender inequality and so manifest differences between men and women. More research needs to be undertaken to validate this rationale.”

“The issue of gender inequalities, and all types of inequalities for that matter, is a complex one, but also an urgent one to examine and address,” Batz-Barbarich added. “It takes the voices and dedication of all – researchers, policy makers, and the general public – to work to overcome inequalities that stem from bias and discrimination. The answer to resolving inequalities will not be a simple one, but I am confident that with continued dedication and attention, strides will continue to be made in the right direction.”

The study, “A Meta-Analysis of Gender Differences in Subjective Well-Being: Estimating Effect Sizes and Associations With Gender Inequality“, was authored by Cassondra Batz-Barbarich, Louis Tay, Lauren Kuykendall, and Ho Kwan Cheung.