Happiness is a complex of feelings that people possess due to a number of factors. Sociologists have established that many social factors contribute to happiness of an individual. The study sought to establish if gender, education level, and the number of children influence happiness among Americans.
The findings did show that gender, education level, and the number of children are significant predictors of happiness. Essentially, women are happier than men, people with higher education level are happier than people with lower education level, and the number of children in a family correlates negatively with happiness of parents.
One of the most important inner feelings in a person is happiness, mainly because happiness makes a person feel good and satisfied. Indeed, happiness is one of the emotions that people can derive from many things, for example, in relationship with their families. Again, it is always obvious that when people do something good, they automatically become happy.
People prefer to be happy because happiness provides them with many good results. Usually, happiness varies from one person to another depending on social conditions. According to Easterlin (2008), trend of happiness among Americans relatively increases from the ages of 18 to midlife, but gradually decreases as they approach old age.
Happiness forms an integral part of life as when one is happy, his or her health will improve, and this positive effect on health will probably lead to prolonged life. Happiness also provides protection against some serious diseases, for example, those who are always happy are less likely to suffer from diseases like heart attack or depression (Helliwell, 2008). Lastly, when someone is happy, it is always easy for him/her to make new friends, since happiness makes people look very attractive.
Besides, it is always true that those who are happy can easily help others, mainly because happiness brings satisfaction to people. Various factors make one to become happy. In most cases, people always consider money as one of the things that provide happiness; however, this is not always the case.
In the subsequent sections, this paper will provide discussion on how gender, education level and the number of children influence happiness. Therefore, the paper will try to establish whether happiness is directly related to gender or education level, and whether the number of children an individual has can influence the degree of his or her happiness.
Most of the recent studies have shown that there is a great influence of gender on happiness (Simon, 2008). Happiness is a state of mind that many researchers always argue about – that anybody can be happy. Contrary to this statement, researchers have found that females nowadays are less happy than males (Helliwell, 2008).
In addition, studies have shown that married men tend to be happier than married women are (Easterlin, 2008). This is attributed to the fact that nowadays, the expectations put on women have increased, mainly due to the extensive and numerous empowerment programs accorded to women.
In the past, women were happy compared to men, but this has changed currently especially due to various marital conflicts facing women and men. Another factor that makes women less happy than men is the responsibility of taking care of children, which has always been reserved for women. The role of taking care of children increases stress in women, especially those whose jobs or careers are very demanding.
One of the arguments is that women have more intensive workload due to their empowerment; as a result, today’s women tend to work extra hard and extra hours, leading to no or limited time for others and their families, and consequently bringing less happiness to them.
According to Helliwell (2008), suicides, depressions, and self-destructive behaviors have risen among females recently, mainly due to the stressful life they tend to live. The argument is that as they play double roles of professional engagement and caring for family, they become very stressed and unhappy; indeed, those living in single parenthood are even unhappy, as they do not have anyone to help them with family responsibilities.
Most researchers have found that there is a direct link between education and happiness. According to Roberts (2013), high level of education results to a good living environment in terms of income, status, and even wealth, which brings happiness. High level of education allows one to attain significant status in the society, leading to respect and happiness, which in turn leads to enjoyment of societal goods and resources.
In addition, those who have a high level of education have more knowledge and they are more aware of their surroundings, thereby tending to enjoy most of the available resources. Besides, Verducci (2013) argues that higher education leads to possibilities of good employment and income, thereby making those who can afford education to be happier than those who are less educated
Overall, high level of education leads to higher income, which allows an individual to access most of things, he or she desires, thus increasing happiness. Education level again has a direct impact on the degree of happiness, mainly because high education is highly valued in the society, leading to self-confidence, and consequently raising the status of those who have a high learning status (Verducci, 2013).
The Number of Children
Different scholars have done research on the relationship between happiness and the number of children in different families. According to Easterlin (2008), the number of children in a family is inversely proportional to the level of happiness the family enjoys. This shows that the higher the number of children, the less happy the family will be.
However, the birth of the first child always has a strong and positive effect on females’ happiness (Luis, 2010). On the male counterparts, the degree of happiness does not vary so much with the number of children unless they are helping the females to take care of the children.
Again, according to Gobbo and Raccanello (2007), the degree of happiness always reduces during the development stages of a child up to the time the child reaches around 10 years. After teenage age, the degree of happiness increases steadily again in the family when the children have grown up.
It is also found out that the increase in the number of children leads to lack of love in the family and later leads to decline in the degree of happiness (Luis, 2010). In some cases, having many children gives the parents, especially the female ones, emotional benefits, leading to increased happiness. Nevertheless, it is clear that an increase in the number of children lowers the degree of happiness, especially on the side of females (Gobbo & Raccanello, 2007).
Overall, it is important to note that the first child normally brings joy to the family, but subsequent children increase the level of stress in parents, leading to reduced happiness. According to Gobbo & Raccanello (2007), there is always a direct link between happiness and the physical health of an individual.
The first hypothesis is that women are less happy than their men counterparts. Hence, it means that gender determines happiness among the population.
Since happiness is an emotional feeling, women are more likely to be emotional most of the times compared to men. According to the study by Helliwell (2008), women are less happy than men are because they are emotional and increased responsibilities in life, both family and professional duties. The emotional nature of women coupled with marital conflicts and childcare issues make women to experience more problems and challenges than men.
The second hypothesis is that the level of education has a direct effect on the degree of happiness. Those who have higher levels of education are more likely to be happier than those who have lower levels of education.
In the study, Roberts (2013) found out that education is a significant predictor of happiness because it empowers individuals to achieve knowledge, good jobs, and amass wealth, which are essential in creating happiness. In the society, people with high levels of education get decent jobs, which consequently enhance their social and economic status, and thus happiness.
The third hypothesis is that an increase in the number of children is more likely to reduce happiness among people. The happiness decreases with an increase in the number of children because children increase the burden to parents in terms of parenting, school fees, clothes, and foodstuff.
Easterlin (2008) established that families with many children are less happy than families with no children. In essence, families with many children have reduced happiness as they spend most of the time figuring out how to provide for their children.
The General Social Survey offered the data that the study used in examining how gender, education level, and the number of children in a family influence happiness among individuals. The General Social Survey provides data that depict demographic characteristics of Americans and their attitudes towards various issues that affect their lives. In the selection of participants, the General Social Survey applies proportional sampling method.
The selected participants normally undergo through face-to-face interviews. Davis and Smith (2011) state that the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) is a body that performs an annual survey among Americans who are above 18 years by using computer-aided personal interviews and face-to-face interviews. The General Social Survey is important because it provides an updated data regarding trends of social issues that affects Americans.
Thus, given that the study aims at examining how gender, education level, and the number of children in a family influence happiness among people, it collected appropriate data from the General Social Survey. Hence, the study selected 2500 participants from the General Social Survey and analyzed their data to establish if gender, education level, and the number of children have any significant influence on happiness.
The study used a three-Likert scaled questionnaire as an instrument for determining factors that influence happiness among Americans. The demographic features such as gender, education level, and the number of children comprise the independent variable of the study. In contrast, happiness is the dependent variable, which the study measures using a three-Likert scaled items, namely, very happy, happy, and not so very happy.
Essentially, gender, education level, and the number of children are the three independent variables, whereas happiness is a dependent variable. To establish variation in the dependent variable, the study used a research question and obtained the answers in a Likert scale manner. Thus, the research question was how happy are you?
The nominal scale applied in measuring the independent variables comprised of gender, education level, and the number of children. On the other hand, the scale used in the measurement of the dependent variable is an ordinal scale, which ranges from 1 to 3 in a Likert scale manner.
In the data analysis, the study used the statistical software for social science (SPSS). As the study aimed at establishing the effect of gender, education level, and the number of children in a family, it used frequency tables and crosstabs in the presentation of findings.
Furthermore, the study used Chi-square test in testing if the independent variables are significant predictors of happiness among Americans. The study did set the significance level at 0.05 of rejecting the null hypotheses of gender, education level, and the number of children.
Analysis of data using SPSS did present results in frequency tables. Examination of the frequency tables depicts trends of happiness among 2500 participants based on their gender, education level, and the number of children.
The frequency table presenting the independent variable of gender shows that 145 women and 50 men were very happy. Moreover, the frequency table also shows that 158 women and 75 men were happy, while 35 women and 45 men were not happy. Overall, the frequency table indicates that most participants were happy in their lives.
Moreover, frequency table of the level of education shows that 725 participants with higher education level were very happy while 175 participants with lower education levels were very happy. Comparatively, 1425 participants with higher education were happy while 850 participants with lower education levels were happy. Among participants who were not happy, 350 participants had a higher education level whereas 1475 participants had lower education level.
Regarding the independent variable, among the participants with no children, 545, 1555, 440, and 400 participants were very, happy, and not happy respectively. Among participants with one child, 7675, 1265, and 468 participants were very happy, happy, and not happy accordingly. Regarding participants with more than two children, 8875, 990, and 6225 participants were very happy, happy, and not happy respectively.
Further analysis using crosstabs shows that 5.8% of women and 2% of men were very happy. Moreover, the crosstab shows that 3% of men and 6.3% of women were happy, whereas 1.4% of women and 1.8% of men are not happy.
In the crosstab that shows the distribution of participants regarding their education level, 29% of participants with higher education level were very happy while 7% lower education level were very happy. Among individuals who were happy, 57% had a higher education level while 34% had lower education level. Moreover, 14% and 59% of participants who were not happy had higher education levels and lower education level respectively.
The crosstab of the number of children depicts that 21.8%, 62.2%, and 16% of participants with no children were very happy, happy, and not happy respectively. Comparatively, 30.7%, 50.6%, and 18.7% of participants with a child were very happy, happy, and not happy accordingly. Among the participants who had more than two children, 35.5%, 39.6%, and 24.9% were very happy, happy, and not happy respectively.
The studyused the chi-square test in testing the significance influence of gender, education level, and the number of children. The first hypothesis is that women are less happy than their men counterparts. The null hypothesis holds that men and women are equally happy, and thus it is expected that the distribution of participants in crosstab is equal.
However, the crosstab shows women are happier than men. The distribution of percentages shows that 2%, 3%, and 1.8% of men were very happy, happy, and not happy respectively, while 5.8%, 6.3%, and 1.4% of women were very happy, happy, and not happy respectively. The chi-square test depicted that the p-value is greater than the significant level. Hence, the test reject the null hypothesis and affirms that women are happier than men (χ2 = 88.365, df = 2, p<.005).
The third hypothesis is that an increase in the number of children is more likely to reduce happiness among people. The hypothesis means that families with many children are unhappy when compared with families with no children. Crosstab shows that 21.8%, 62.2%, and 16% of participants without children were very happy, happy, and not happy respectively.
Likewise, 30.7%, 50.6%, and 18.7% of participants with one child were very happy, happy, and not happy accordingly. Regarding families with more than two kids, the crosstab shows that 35.5%, 39.6%, and 24.9% of participants were very happy, happy, and not happy respectively. The chi-square test proved that the observed distribution of participants is significant because it shows that Americans with many children are less happy than those with one or no children ((χ2 = 128.568, df = 2, p<.005).
The variation in happiness among the population occurs due to a number of factors. Gender, education level, and the number of children are factors that the study sought to find out if they influence happiness among Americans. The first hypothesis states that men are happier than women.
The study done by Helliwell (2008) found out that women are less happy when compared to their men counterparts because they are emotional and have huge responsibilities both in the family and workplaces. In contrast with these findings, the study found out that women are happier than men. In this view, the study shows that gender is a predictive factor of happiness among Americans.
The second hypothesis states that the level of education influence happiness among Americans. Roberts (2013) conducted a study a found out that the level of education influences happiness in that people with higher levels of education are happier than people with lower levels of education. The analysis of the General Social Survey reveals that Americans with higher levels of education are happier than Americans with lower education level. Thus, the study proves the education level is a significant predictor of happiness among Americans.
The third hypothesis states that the number of children is inversely proportional to happiness among people. In a study, Easterlin (2008) established that families with many children are less happy than families without children because of the increased responsibilities of providing school fees, food, clothing, and parenting.
Similarly, the analysis of the data obtained from General Social shows that people with many children are less happy than those without children. This confirms that the number of children in a family significantly predicts the state of happiness among Americans.
Although gender, education level, and the number of children contribute to some degree of happiness, it is important to realize that thoughts and other feelings enhance peace of mind, leading to happiness (Luis, 2010).
Again, it is important to understand that wealth and money do not guarantee happiness, as one may have a lot of wealth, but live a stressful life due to social and emotional factors. Moreover, although gender, education level, and the number of children tend to influence the level of happiness, it is apparent that happiness is a choice that provides good health and well-being (Easterlin, 2008).
Happiness requires making the right choices; for women, it is important that they lower their degree of expectations, as well as change their thinking and attitudes in order to be happy. Males on the other hand should try to change their attitudes and thoughts on the values and ideas that bring about happiness, as this will enable them to become happy.
Since the study used one question in establishing the extent to which Americans are happy, the question does not accommodate all factors that determine happiness in a person. In this view, the question used by the study is not reliable in measuring happiness among individuals.
Moreover, the study used three-Likert scale items as dependent variables that measure the extent of happiness. The three-Likert scale items do not measure the degree of happiness, and thus prone to erroneous outcome. Therefore, to improve the validity and the accuracy of the outcome, the study should use a number of questions that target factors that influence happiness and increase the Likert scale from 3 items to five items.
Given that the study used 2500 participants, the number is relatively small compared to the general target population. The small number of participants decreases the external validity of the findings, and thus their application across all the population. Thus, the study should increase the number of participants and analyze their data appropriately to enhance external validity of the findings.
Easterlin, R. A. (2008). Life cycle happiness and its sources: Capabilities and happiness. New York: Oxford University Press.
Gobbo, C., & Raccanello, D. (2007). How children narrate happy and sad events: does affective state count? Applied Cognitive Psychology, 21(9), 1173-1190.
Helliwell, J. F. (2008). Combining individual and national variables to explain subjective well-being. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Luis, A. (2010). Children and Life Satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(4), 523-538
Roberts, P. (2013). Happiness, Despair, and Education. Studies in Philosophy & Education, 32(5), 53-475.
Simon, R. (2008). Who are Happier: Men or Women? Gender Issues, 25 (2), 141-143
Verducci, S. (2013). Happiness and Education: Tilting at windmills? Educational Philosophy & Theory, 45(5), 498-501.