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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The number B24, as well as the other numbers refer to questions as they appear in the questionnaire.

  2. 2.

    All differences have been tested in a model that contains the interactions between gender and all other variables. When we write larger or smaller than the differences is significant at least at the 0.05 level.

  3. 3.

    The significance level is 0.06.

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Acknowledgments

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

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Correspondence to Peter H. van der Meer.

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van der Meer, P.H. Gender, Unemployment and Subjective Well-Being: Why Being Unemployed Is Worse for Men than for Women. Soc Indic Res 115, 23–44 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-012-0207-5

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Keywords

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