Media Briefings

Job Satisfaction, Family Life And Happiness: Different Experiences For Men And Women

  • Published Date: February 2008


Having children in the household brings no increase in life satisfaction for men – and
an increase in women’s life satisfaction only once the children are attending school.
What’s more, women with children are significantly happier if they have a job,
regardless of how many hours it entails.
These are among the findings of research by Professors Alison Booth and Jan van
Ours
, which explores the degree to which family happiness is influenced by the
number of hours that men and women spend at work. Their study is published in the
February 2008 issue of The Economic Journal.
The research investigates the relationship between work status and family happiness
using data on married or cohabiting men and women from the British Household
Panel Survey, a nationally representative sample of about 5,500 households whose
lives have been tracked every year since 1991. The analysis finds that:
• Men with partners are most satisfied with the hours they spend at work if they
work full-time but do not do overtime. But neither their job satisfaction nor their
overall life satisfaction are affected by how many hours they work.
• Men’s life satisfaction is influenced only by whether they have a job, which
brings a significant increase in reported happiness.
• Women with partners are most satisfied with their job and the number of
hours they work if they have a part-time job. But their overall satisfaction with
their life is not affected by how many hours they work.
• Mothers seem simply to want a job, irrespective of the hours it entails. Women
without children appear indifferent to employment, and if employed, they don’t
seem to mind how many hours it involves.
• Children bring no increase in life satisfaction for men – and an increase in the
life satisfaction for women only once the children are attending school.
• The reported wellbeing of each partner in a couple is unaffected by the other
partner's health or work status.
The study measures ‘wellbeing’ by self-reported life satisfaction, working hours
satisfaction and job satisfaction. The latter two measures are constructed from
responses to two questions asking respondents to report how satisfied they are with
their hours of market work and with their present job, from 1 (completely dissatisfied)
through 4 (neither satisfied or dissatisfied) to 7 (completely satisfied).
Life satisfaction is constructed from a question later in the survey using the same
7-category scale and asking ‘how dissatisfied or satisfied are you with your
life overall?’
Of the women in their sample, 10% have a small part-time job, 20% have a large
part-time job and 40% have a full-time job. Of the men 2% have a part-time job and
71% have a full-time job. So hardly any men have a part-time job while only a small
proportion of women have a job with overtime.
ENDS
Notes for editors: ‘Job Satisfaction and Family Happiness: The Part-time Work
Puzzle’ by Alison Booth and Jan van Ours is published in the February 2008 issue of
The Economic Journal.
Alison Booth is at the University of Essex. Jan van Ours is at the University of
Melbourne.
For further information: contact Alison Booth on 01206-874873 (email:
albooth@essex.ac.uk); Jan van Ours on +61 8344 5310 (email:
jvanours@unimelb.edu.au); or Romesh Vaitilingam on 07768-661095 (email:
romesh@compuserve.com).