A new study published in Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World compared the differing impact parenting has on personal happiness for White and Black individuals. White women with children demonstrate the biggest deficit in happiness compared to their childless White female counterparts. Conversely, Black fathers are happier than Black men with no children. Black women and White men reported the same amount of happiness whether they had children or not.
The new findings provide insights into how parenting can have various impacts depending on culture, race, and gender.
In American culture, happiness is highly valued and is often used to measure social inequality. Studies have shown that Black Americans report lower levels of happiness than their White counterparts. However, there has been limited research on whether the experience of being a parent among Black Americans contributes to this happiness gap.
Parenthood is known to cause stress, which can lead to lower happiness levels, and this stress varies depending on demographic factors. Black parents, in particular, face significant challenges in ensuring the well-being of their children due to racism in schools and communities.
In their new work, Jennifer Augustine and Mia Brantley sought to fill the gap in the literature on the happiness difference between Black and White individuals, the happiness difference between parents, and the unique experiences of Black parents raising children.
The researchers sought to examine if the gap in happiness between parenting is wider for Black individuals compared to White individuals. The study utilizes data from the General Social Survey (GSS) to gain new insights into whether parenting challenges are equally shared among different racial groups in the US.
The GSS is a survey that was conducted in the United States annually from 1972 to 1994 and biennially since then. It collects data on the attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, and demographics of English-speaking, noninstitutionalized adults. The GSS has always included a self-assessed happiness question, making it a valuable resource for examining happiness differences among the U.S. population.
For the current study, the data sample included 5,325 Black and White men and women aged 20-50 who participated in GSS panels from 2010 to 2018.
The level of happiness of the participants was measured in each survey by asking them to rate their happiness as “very happy,” “pretty happy,” or “not too happy.” The researchers also collected information on participant age, education level, work status, marital status, religious service attendance frequency, nativity, and region.
“Our findings provide several fresh insights, several of which ran counter to our expectations,” the researchers said.
The study findings indicate that Black parents and non-parents have lower self-rated happiness compared to White parents and non-parents. The authors suggest that discrimination, economic disadvantage, and family structure could be possible reasons for these differences.
In addition, the data revealed that the difference in parental happiness among women is present among White women but not Black women. This result suggests that Black mothers may be more resilient in terms of their happiness despite facing additional challenges.
Possible reasons for this include Black mothers’ sense of group identity and their ability to overcome adversity. In addition, research reveals that Black mothers tend to receive greater community support and spend more quality time with their children compared to White mothers.
As for men, being a parent did not make a significant difference in the happiness of White fathers. However, for Black men, having children was associated with higher levels of happiness. This suggests that fatherhood holds a greater significance for Black men than previously acknowledged. The study also suggests that Black fathers may have a unique perspective on fatherhood that emphasizes the joys of being a parent.
Overall, this research highlights the importance of considering the intricate relationship between race, parenthood, and well-being.
The study, “Black-White differences in parental happiness“, was published online February 23, 2023.