New York, June 27 (IANS) Americans are not generally an unhappy people but parents in the US generally are not as happy as those without children, new research suggests.
The reason? The relative lack of workplace “packages” of policies such as paid sick time, paid vacation, flexible work hours and paid maternal or parental leave, said co-researcher Matthew Andersson, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
The US also has the largest “happiness gap” among parents compared to nonparents in 22 industrialised countries, according to the report.
“The United States, without any standard paid leave available to mothers or parents — or any standard vacation or sick leave to support raising a dependent child — falls strikingly behind all the other countries we examined in terms of providing for parents’ happiness and overall well-being,” he said.
In countries in which such policies are mandated by the government or industry, a smaller gap exists between parents and non-parents.
“In fact, in those places, parents might be slightly happier,” Andersson said.
The findings will be published in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Sociology.
The research examined comparative data from the US, European countries, Australia, Russia and New Zealand, which was gathered from the International Social Surveys and the European Social Surveys.
“Another striking finding was that giving money to parents in child allowances or monthly payments had less effect on parental happiness that giving them the tools — such as flexible work time — to combine employment with parenting,” the report said.
Besides gathering policy information of the countries, researchers took into account each country’s gross domestic product and fertility rate to ensure the findings did not simply reflect economic status.
Researchers tested a number of hypotheses, among them whether more unexpected births and larger families might be associated with parents being less happy than child-free people. But those factors were relatively unimportant, the study showed.
The research also found that Americans are not generally an unhappy people. On a scale from one to 10, they hover in the eight to 10 range, compared with, for example, France, where people tend to rate their levels from 5 to 7.