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Sloan Center News

Gender, Age & Job Satisfaction

20 May 2010—Women workers of all ages report higher job satisfaction than their male counterparts, according to a new analysis by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work.

Women have long presented a paradox to researchers: women tend to occupy lower-level, less prestigious and poorer paying jobs than men, yet they consistently report higher job satisfaction. Taking into account a variety of factors that might affect this relationship, such as affective disposition, education levels, and health, Center researchers Rosalind Barnett and Elyssa Besen explored this pervasive paradox in light of age and job conditions such as job control and job demands. The study utilized data from the second wave of the Midlife in the United States: A National Study of Health & Well-being (MIDUSII).

Key findings include:

  1. Women tended to report higher job satisfaction than men.
  2. Older workers tended to be more satisfied with their jobs than younger workers.
  3. Those with more control over their jobs tended to be more satisfied with their jobs than those with less control, and those with greater job demands tended to be less satisfied with their jobs than those with fewer job demands.
  4. Job demands were more consequential to the job satisfaction of older workers than it was to that of younger workers.
  5. Job control was more consequential to the job satisfaction of younger workers than it was to that of older workers.
  6. Among men, job control was more consequential to the job satisfaction of younger workers than it was to that of older workers. However, among women, job control was slightly more consequential to the job satisfaction of older workers than it was to that of younger workers.

Of course, we can’t infer direct cause and effect relationships from these findings because of the cross-sectional data used in this analysis. For example, we don’t know if higher perception of job demands leads to lower job satisfaction or if lower job satisfaction leads to higher perceptions of job demands. However, these findings do shed light on how age and job conditions may play a role in helping to explain the paradox of the content female worker.

—Chad Minnich is Associate Director of Marketing & Communications at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work