Apparently American women are becoming less happy despite the "objective measures" of their quality of life have been climbing for decades.
By many objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years, yet we show that measures of subjective well-being indicate that women's happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men. The paradox of women's declining relative well-being is found across various datasets, measures of subjective well-being, and is pervasive across demographic groups and industrialized countries. Relative declines in female happiness have eroded a gender gap in happiness in which women in the 1970s typically reported higher subjective well-being than did men. These declines have continued and a new gender gap is emerging -- one with higher subjective well-being for men.
Greg Mankiw suggests two possible explanations:
I am not at all sure how to interpret this finding. It sounds like either the women's movement was a mistake or subjective happiness is not the right objective.
"The women's movement" is a vague umbrella term, but based on the women I know in my demographic I'd say that yes, the movement has done more harm than good. I know many women who are frantic and frustrated because society tells them they can "have it all", but generally that's not really true. I know many 30-year-old women with graduate degrees who are just entering the work force and battling with their desire to have kids before it is biologically too late. They feel that if they take time away from their career to have children then they'll be "set back" or worse, that their expensive education will be wasted. But if they don't have kids soon, they won't be able to have them later.
I fault "the women's movement" for creating this crisis by telling young women that they're failures if they don't have the career "like a man" while simultaneously raising a family "like their mother did". The fact is that no one can do both those things well: women either do both poorly or focus on one, but end up feeling guilty and inadequate either way.
Life is full of trade-offs, and we do our young women no favors by pretending that isn't the case.