Research Paper

Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 601-619

First online:

Aspirations, Attainments, and Satisfaction: Life Cycle Differences Between American Women and Men

  • Anke C. PlagnolAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of Cambridge Email author 
  • , Richard A. EasterlinAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, University of Southern California

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Aspirations, along with attainments, play an important role in shaping well-being. Early in adult life women are more likely than men to fulfill their material goods and family life aspirations; their satisfaction in these domains is correspondingly higher; and so too is their overall happiness. Material goods aspirations refer here to desires for a number of big-ticket consumer goods, such as a home, car, travel abroad and vacation home. In later life these gender differences turn around. Men come closer than women to fulfilling their material goods and family life aspirations, are more satisfied with their financial situation and family life, and are the happier of the two genders. An important factor underlying the turnaround in fulfillment of aspirations for material goods and family life is probably the shift over the course of the life cycle in the relative proportion of women and men in marital and non-marital unions.


Well-being Aspirations Gender Life course