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U.S. Parents Are Among the Least Happy in the World

Jun 21, 2016 08:00 AM EDT
A new study shows that parents in the U.S. are less happy than people who chose not to have kids.
(Photo : Kat Grigg / Flickr)

Parents in the U.S. are less happy than those who do not have children, a new study said.

According to the research, Americans have the largest happiness gap between parents and non-parents among all countries surveyed.

But research found that the happiness gap is less about the children and more about family support provided in the country where they live.

In the study, researchers from the Council on Contemporary Families analyzed the data on reports about happiness and parenting from 22 countries. They found that while parents are reported to be happier than non-parents in some countries, particularly Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Hungary, American parents have the largest happiness shortfall when it comes to being parents.

In fact, the happiness gap is significantly larger than the gaps in other industrialized nations like the U.K. or Australia. In other Western countries, the happiness gap is either nonexistent or reversed.

Jennifer Glass, sociology professor from the University of Texas and author of the study, explored other factors that could form the basis for the research.

They discovered that the gap could be explained by the differences in social policies for families, such as subsidized childcare and paid vacation and sick leaves.

"The negative effects of parenthood on happiness were entirely explained by the presence or absence of social policies allowing parents to better combine work with family obligations," Glass explained in the paper.

"And this was true for both mothers and fathers. Countries with better family policy 'packages' had no happiness gap between parents and non-parents."

The New York Times reported that Glass and her co-researchers speculate that the result is what economists call an indirect benefit, which means that people are happier and more contented when countries invest in the future of their labor force.

Glass also said that cultural differences add to the parent and non-parent happiness gap, but likewise noted that these differences are also reflected in family policies.

"We have to compete for good child care. We compete to live where there's a good elementary school," she said. "We compete for activities because a child's entire fate seems to depend on where he goes to college, because there's no guarantee - if we don't, our child might be left behind."

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