A meta-analytic examination of the role of gender inequality in explaining gender differences in subjective well-being

Cassondra L Batz, Purdue University


Based on a needs fulfillment perspective, we attempt to address the inconsistent evidence on whether men and women differ on subjective well-being levels (SWB) as a result of variations in the experiences of inequality across the world. In doing so, a meta-analysis was conducted using cross-national dimensions of gender inequality to determine if experiences of inequality moderate observed gender differences in SWB (viz. life satisfaction and job satisfaction). Based on 281 effect sizes for life satisfaction (LS; sample size = 1,001,802) and 264 effect sizes for job satisfaction (JS; sample size = 341,949), no significant differences in SWB were found between men and women (LS d = -.004, 95% CI [-.02, 0.01]; JS d = -.02, 95% CI [-.06, .01]). However, upon conducting trim and fill analyses to account for publication bias, the adjusted values for the gender differences in life satisfaction and job satisfaction were significant, such that men have higher levels of both life satisfaction and job satisfaction (LS d = -.03, 95% CI = [-.04; - .01]; JS d = -.11; 95% CI = [-.14, -.07]). Additionally, as hypothesized, we found significant and substantial differences in gender differences from sample to sample. Further, across multiple indicators, we found evidence that national gender inequality moderates the size of gender difference in SWB, such that when greater inequality was experienced the differences between men and women’s SWB levels were greater with men reporting greater levels of SWB than women. Collectively, in the largest meta-analysis on this subject to date, we reconcile inconsistent evidence on gender differences in SWB and demonstrate that national inequality may be a potential explanation for past inconsistencies. Implications for theory and future research are discussed.^




Sien C. Tay, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology|Gender studies

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