Feminism and Happiness: Findings from the General Social Survey

In previous posts to this blog I have explored the relationship between feminism and female happiness by summarizing findings from studies that examine this relationship on the national level and longitudinal level, as well as how various feminist practices (such as holding non-traditional beliefs about marriage, earning more than one’s husband, working full-time, etc.) impact women’s psychological well-being.

Part of this general topic of feminism and happiness was the direct association between a woman being a feminist and being happy. When we last left off this issue was unresolved with different studies coming to different conclusion and none of them containing a representative sample of females or employing controls for confounding variables.

Data:

In this post I will be presenting an analysis of survey data from General Social Survey (GSS). The GSS is a  large scale and representative survey of American adults living in households and has been providing demographic and sociological data on a wide variety of topics since 1972.

In 1996 respondents were asked whether or not they considered themselves to be a feminist as well as how happy they generally felt. This, along with other demographic variables included in the 1996 wave, provide us with the tools required to explore the association between happiness and being a feminist among a representative sample of U.S. females as well as employ controls for confounding variables.

As a measure of happiness respondents were asked the following: “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days – would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?” For the analysis this is coded as a binary variable with “very happy” as one value and either “pretty happy” or “not too happy” coded as the other value. As for feminism, respondents were simply asked “Do you think of yourself as a feminist or not?”

Other variables included in the analysis are logarithmic age, which is the natural log of the respondents age; whether the respondent is black or white;  the respondent’s income bracket; and the respondent’s total years of education.

Method:

The first analysis is a chi-squared test to determine if there is a significant difference between the proportion of feminist women versus non-feminist women who say that they are very happy.

The second analysis is a logistic regression model with whether or not a women is very happy as the dependent variable and education, income, race, age, and feminism as independent variables.

Results:

Descriptive Statistics

In total, 770 women provided an answer to both the question about feminism and about happiness. Of these 770 women 221 (28.7%) considered themselves to be a feminist and 226 of these women (29.4%) felt very happy as opposed to either pretty happy or not too happy.

Chi-Squared test

A chi-squared test revealed no significant association between being a feminist and being very happy (χ² = 1.513, df = 1. p = 0.219).

Logistic regression

A logistic regression analysis reveals that the association between being a feminist (f_fem) remains non-significant (N = 644, ß = -0.142, p = 0.495) after controlling for logarithmic age (log_age), income, education (educ), and race.

logistic regression

Discussion:

In the past, studies explored the relationship between happiness and feminism with unrepresentative samples of women and failed to control for confounding variables. This analysis corrects these errors by using a representative sample of 770 women from the U.S. as well as including a regression analysis that controls for potentially confounding variables. With these corrections we find that being a feminist is not statistically significantly associated with happiness. Taking together the findings of previous studies along with the current findings it seems increasingly unlikely that there is any substantial association between feminism and happiness among women.

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One thought on “Feminism and Happiness: Findings from the General Social Survey

  1. I don’t believe that being a feminist or not can be the stick by which to measure a woman’s happiness. A woman who is respected and valued in whichever role she chooses in life is more likely to be happy than a woman forced into a role not of her choosing. I have met both feminist and traditionalist women who I would consider to be very happy, as well as women in both categories who are miserable. Also, some people don’t realize they are unhappy until presented with an option. That’s another can of worms.

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