A neurotic reading of happiness research

Despite the huge and on-going advances of women by most objective indicators, feminism retains a neurotic aspect, an over-anxiety that the gains are going to be reversed.

One manifestation of this anxiety is strong reactions against even empirically true statements about gender, lest they conceal some normative agenda by the author, or suggest arguments that ‘traditional values’ conservatives might later use. I scored this kind of reaction last month. But I was being provocative and cannot complain that I got a response. But what did Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers do to deserve this spray in the Guardian, dutifully reprinted over the weekend in the Guardian of the south, aka The Age?

The prompt for the Guardian attack on Stevenson and Wolfers was the National Bureau of Economic Research publication of their research on the declining relative happiness of women, especially in the United States. I blogged on an earlier version of this paper in 2007.

The Stevenson and Wolfers paper is in standard NBER style, full of sentences like ‘the ordered probit normalizes the underlying distribution of happiness to have a standard deviation of one, and hence this shift amounts to about one-eighth of the cross-sectional standard deviation of happiness.’
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