Social Indicators Research

, Volume 115, Issue 1, pp 23–44 | Cite as

Gender, Unemployment and Subjective Well-Being: Why Being Unemployed Is Worse for Men than for Women

  • Peter H. van der MeerEmail author


This paper tries to explain why unemployment has such a severe effect on the subjective well-being of people. It is already known that unemployed have among the lowest levels of subjective well-being of all people. This paper explains and tests why this is so. The explanation is based on the social production function theory. This theory states that ultimately people strive for physical well-being and social approval. Because unemployment affect both physical well-being and social approval its effect is so large. We elaborate this explanation to account for the differences between men and women. Because men and women have different ways of achieveing social approval unemployment is more detremental for men than for women. We further analyze differences between single men and women and married men and women to test the explanation that is put forward. Using the European Social Survey held in 2004 the hypotheses are tested. We do find that having a job is one of the main factors affecting subjective well-being, that this effect is bigger for men than for women and that women profit from the jobs of their partners whereas men do not.


Labour economic policies Economics of gender Unemployment Household production Subjective well-being Happiness 



I thank Florian Hemme for his research assistance and Rudi Wielers for his comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Economics and BusinessUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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