Monday 24 August 2015

Inequality and unhappiness

If income inequality is bad, in part, because those on lower incomes feel bad about their absolute levels of income when others are doing better, what is appropriate policy on this one?
When people grade their sex lives relative to their peers, it takes a toll on their overall happiness, not just satisfaction with their sex lives. Tim Wadsworth, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder, found that falling behind other people’s sex lives can lower overall happiness. For every level of sexual activity (two to three times a week, once a week, two to three times a month, etc.) that people were behind the actual average for their peers, they were 14 percent more likely to describe themselves as “not too happy” rather than either “pretty happy” or “very happy.”2
And just as unhappiness with income inequality is more driven by perceptions of inequality than by the data, so too for inequality in sex lives:
Inaccurate perceptions about what counts as normal sexuality are widespread. In sociologist Michael Kimmel’s book “Guyland: The Perilous World in Which Boys Become Men,” he found that male college students assumed about 80 percent of their classmates had sex on any given weekend. The real number was closer to 5 percent to 10 percent. Kathleen Bogle, the author of “Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus,” also found in her interviews that students consistently overestimated the amount of sex that others were having.The result is a reverse Lake Wobegon effect: Everyone is below “normal.”
As always, which inequalities matter for policy is at least as interesting as the stats on any particular margin.

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