- There is strong, consistent evidence that promoting gender equality in industrial democracies leads to greater subjective well-being.
- When the sexes are more equal, there are significant gains in life satisfaction for both men and women.
- Electing women to political office makes communities happier.
Political scientists say the results are quite clear: In countries where more women hold elected office, people are happier.
In 2018, Audette, Lam, O’Connor, and Radcliff, the authors of the study "(E)Quality of Life: A Cross-National Analysis of the Effect of Gender Equality on Life Satisfaction," examined four of the major measures of global gender equality. These measures include the percentage of legislative and management positions held by women, how long women have held government positions, income parity, women’s health data, and education rates of women. They combined these data with data from the World Values Survey and the Eurobarometer survey, as well as other common predictors of life satisfaction, asking if gender equality affects happiness.
In the industrial democracies of the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, the authors find strong and consistent evidence that promoting gender equality leads to greater subjective well-being, as shown in the diagram at left. Across all four measures, when the sexes are more equal, there are significant gains in life satisfaction for both men and women.
As gender equality increases, citizen happiness increases
Countries with greater gender equality can be found on the right side of the graph (such as Denmark), while countries with lower gender equality can be found on the left (such as Japan). Countries with greater life satisfaction are found towards the top of the graph, and countries with lower levels of life satisfaction are found towards the bottom. The red line is the trend.
Does women’s happiness come at the expense of men?
The authors find a similar trend among all the data sources and years examined and find that benefits to one gender group do not come at the expense of the other. They broke the results out by gender to examine happiness levels among both men and women separately and found that gender equality significantly improves life outcomes for both men and women, albeit slightly more so for women.
Author Andre Audette says that equal representation of women in government improves peoples’ lives and increases happiness and well-being among all residents of a country. “Specifically, we can promote happiness among our neighbors by electing more women to office because the choice to strive for equality, justice, and greater representation for women is good for everyone.”
He explains that studies show that electing women to public office leads to more legislation because women introduce more successful legislation than their male counterparts, as well as more legislation that benefits the lives of women. He points out that ensuring women have choices in how to lead their lives—economic, social, and political—can signal a net increase of freedom to others around them and can empower others to achieve their dreams.
Audette, A., Lam, S., O’Connor, H., & Radcliff, B. (2018). (E)Quality of Life: A Cross-National Analysis of the Effect of Gender Equality on Life Satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 20(7), 2173-2188.
Audette, A.P., (2019). Gender Equality Supports Happiness and Well-Being. The Gender Policy Report, University of Minnesota.