Bryan Caplan  

Correction: Men, Women, Kids, and Happiness

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After blogging this...

If you look at the data - the same GSS data you favorably cite - you'll see that kids usually have a smaller negative effect on the happiness of moms than the happiness of dads. The natural inference is that you're missing half the story. Yes, women bear more of the costs of kids, but apparently they also get more of the benefits.
...I noticed that my original result was fragile. Controlling for real income, church attendance, age, and marital status, men take a bigger happiness hit from kids than women, just as I said. On a 1-3 scale, every child predicts a 0.021 reduction in male happiness, but only a 0.016 reduction in female happiness.

However, I later noticed that controling for gender reverses the result, because all else equal, the average women is a little happier than the average man. Adding a gender control to my previous specification, each child reduces male happiness by .014, and female happiness by .022. That's still really small - by way of comparison, married people have score about .19 units higher than singles in both specifications. But qualitatively, the data support Will's claim that on balance, being a parent is harder on women than men.

Of course, as I've argued before, the wise solution to gender conflict is Coasean bargaining, not resentment.


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
8 writes:

If this survey were conducted with privates in the Army, would they be unhappy because basic training and military life is difficult, or would they be happy because for the next 60 years of their life they were proud of their service and happy with the skills they learned?

Rich writes:

all else equal, the average women is a little happier than the average man

The happiness distributions are different, though; the male distribution has heavier tails. Would the median be a better measure?

Will Wilkinson writes:

Bryan,

Cool.

I think I'm homing in on the real question at hand... Can you tell me if either of these is an accurate statement of your hypothesis:

(a) Given any number of children greater than zero (and less than... what?), there IS on average a net benefit to both parents of having another child.

(b) Given any number of children greater than zero (and less than... what?), there WOULD BE on average a net benefit to both parents, if only they applied the strategies you recommend.

I suspect your claim is (a). In which case, finding that (b) is false, as I suspect it is, would be suggestive but not dispositive. But I'm not sure what evidence would help you actually establish the counterfactual in (b).

Also, when you say you aim to show selfish reasons for having MORE kids, are you conceding that the self-interested case for having ANY kids is weak?

Will Wilkinson writes:

ARGH, I got my (a) and (b) backward. Ignore the comment above. I meant to say this:

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Bryan,

Cool.

I think I'm homing in on the real question at hand... Can you tell me if either of these is an accurate statement of your hypothesis:

(a) Given any number of children greater than zero (and less than... what?), there IS on average a net benefit to both parents from having another child.

(b) Given any number of children greater than zero (and less than... what?), there WOULD BE on average a net benefit to both parents from having another child, if only they applied the strategies you recommend.

I suspect your claim is (b). In which case, finding that (a) is false, as I suspect it is, would be suggestive but not dispositive. But I'm not sure what evidence would help you actually establish the counterfactual in (b).

Also, when you say you aim to show selfish reasons for having MORE kids, are you conceding that the self-interested case for having ANY kids is weak?

Beth writes:

I love this blog - I know very little about economics but the discussions fascinate me.

However, I'm really feeling economic formulas can't really tell us much about what makes us happy or not! Or how to be happier. Or led more fullfilling lives.

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