Are Women Better Off?

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 31 2012 @ 12:55pm

Yes, according to Hanna Rosin, who sparked a WSJ debate on the sexual revolution:

Young women in their sexual prime—that is, their 20s and early 30s—are generally better off than young men. They are better educated and earn more money on average. What made this possible is the sexual revolution—the ability to have temporary, intimate relationships that don't derail a career. Or to put it more simply, to have sex without getting married.

Along similar lines, a new working paper (pdf) from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the Pill accounted for 10 percent of the narrowing wage gap in the 1980s and 31 percent in the 1990s. So why aren't women happier?

Using 35 years of data from the General Social Survey, two Wharton School economists, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, made the case in 2009 that women's happiness appeared to be declining over time despite their advances in the work force and education. The authors noted that women (and men) showed declining happiness during the years studied. Though they were careful not to draw conclusions from their data, is it not reasonable to think that at least some of that discontent comes from the feeling that the grass is greener elsewhere—a feeling made plausible by the sexual revolution?

David Sessions thinks social conservatives love to talk about happiness but miss the larger picture:

[I]t’s pretty self-evident that women are better off than they were in 1950. You’re free to think it’s better to have a society where women have less choice about what to do with their lives, less ability to support themselves without a man, and less ability to pursue the education and career opportunities they clearly excel at, but you’d be in a fractional minority of even conservative women.

The reason conservatives don’t want to admit this obvious reality in public is what is behind the profound change, the profound improvement, in women’s standing in such a short period of time: the breaking away from traditional ideas about gender roles and sexual morality.