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July 10, 2012

Women and Men Worldwide Equally Likely to Be "Thriving"

Life evaluation ratings among both genders increase similarly with GDP
by Lymari Morales and Kyley McGeeney
This article is the fourth in a series exploring gender inequality worldwide.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Women worldwide in 2011 continued to rate their lives similarly to men. Across
147 countries and areas, 24% of women rate their lives well enough to be considered "thriving" -- a key
measure of societal wellbeing. Women are also as likely as men are to be "struggling" (63%) and "suffering"
Gallup classifies respondents as thriving, struggling, or suffering according to how they rate their current
and future lives on a ladder scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10, based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring
Striving Scale, where 0 represents the worst possible life and 10 represents the best possible life.
Respondents are classified as thriving if they rate their current lives a 7 or higher and their lives in five
years an 8 or higher, and suffering if they rate both their current lives and their lives in five years a 4 or
lower. The remainder are classified as struggling.
The parity in life evaluations among women and men in 2011 persists despite the gender inequality
women face in the key areas of employment, personal safety, and physical wellbeing. While it is possible
that women measure their lives by different standards than men do when rating their lives, the findings
suggest that women exhibit a high level of subjective resilience and optimism despite the challenges they
Women's life evaluation ratings mirror men's on each of the components that make up Gallup's "thriving"
measure. Women and men worldwide, on average, in 2011 each rated their current lives a 5.4 and their
lives in five years a 6.6. These scores have also been remarkably close among women and men each year
Gallup has tracked wellbeing worldwide.
Thriving globally has not budged even one percentage point in recent years, except for a decline from
24% to 21% in 2009 after the global financial crisis. Suffering increased to 13% in 2009 from 9% in 2007
and hasn't changed since. This is true even though Gallup has documented sharp shifts in these life
evaluation measures in countries facing political or economic turmoil, including Egypt, Tunisia, and
Gallup and other researchers such as Angus Deaton, Betsey Stevenson, and Justin Wolfers have found that
people's evaluations of their lives are highly related to GDP per capita. This is true for both genders.
Women and men rate their lives better, and to a similar degree, across GDP groups, as classified by the
World Bank.
Americas Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa Lags
Women and men are the most likely to be thriving in the Americas, each rating their current lives a 6.8
and expecting them to be a 7 .9 in the future. Women are least likely to be thriving in sub-Saharan Africa,
but, here, optimism abounds as both genders give their future lives among the highest ratings worldwide.
Women in the former Soviet Union trail their male counterparts the most, while women in the Middle East
and North Africa are the most likely to rate their lives better than men do.
Women rate their lives differently than do men in only a few specific countries. Thriving among women
trails thriving among men by double digits in two countries: Ukraine and Vietnam. The gaps in these
countries reflect men rating their lives more positively in 2011 than in 2010, while women's life ratings
remained steadier.
Conversely, thriving among women exceeds thriving among men by double digits in four countries:
Qatar, Angola, South Korea, and Iran. In Qatar, Iran, and South Korea, women in recent years have
consistently rated their lives more positively than men have. In Angola, both genders have grown more
positive about their lives in recent years, but women more so than men.
In South Korea, women have consistently been more likely than men to be thriving every year that Gallup
has surveyed there, even as both genders have become more positive about their lives. South Korean
women's positive life evaluations likely reflect their country's high employment rate among women --
even though women in South Korea on average earn 38% less than men, the largest gender pay gap in the
Denmark Does Best Overall, Afghanistan Worst
Women and men are most likely to be thriving in Denmark, at 7 8% and 7 0%, respectively, resulting in an
eight-percentage-point gender gap in favor of women. Women in Afghanistan (2%) are among the least
likely in the world to be thriving.
The low percentage of women who are thriving in Afghanistan marks a sharp decline from 15% in 2010.
This is an exception to the pattern seen in most countries, where the trends in thriving among women and
men tend to rise and fall together. The sharp decline in thriving in Afghanistan coincides with higher food
prices and inflation and food shortages triggered by floods in 2010 in Pakistan, the country's chief food
Other countries that saw double-digit declines in thriving among women in 2011 were El Salvador (-22),
Bahrain (-15), Pakistan (-12), and Ireland (-10), and in each of these cases men also saw declines. In
Zambia (-12), Guatemala (-10), and Paraguay (-10), women lost ground while men remained relatively
steady. Ghana (+22), Uzbekistan (+22), South Korea (+15), and Thailand (+14) saw double-digit increases
in thriving among women in 2011, accompanied by increases among men.
Gallup's global analysis reveals that women worldwide, and in most countries, in 2011 continued to rate
their lives similarly to men. Women's parity with men is remarkable considering there are often gender
gaps in the key areas of employment, personal safety, and physical wellbeing.
Leaders should be particularly concerned about women's wellbeing in the countries where women are less
likely to be thriving overall, as well as where their wellbeing is deteriorating. It is important to measure
and actively work to improve how women are doing overall on these metrics, in addition to how they are
doing compared with men. Examining only the gender gap paints an incomplete picture.
As more women have more opportunitites to get good jobs, feel safe, and improve their physical
wellbeing, they will be better positioned to contribute economically and socially to society, and
positioned for even higher wellbeing. It is also clear that women take into account many factors when
rating their lives -- much of which classic economic data alone cannot capture.
For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys,
please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.7 15.3030.
Survey Methods
Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with 191,317 adults, aged 15 and older,
conducted during 2011 in 147 countries and areas. For results based on the total global sample, one can
say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is less than 1 percentage point. For
results based on country-level samples, the margin of error ranges from a low of 1.6 percentage points
to a high of 7 .3 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In
addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can
introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set
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