Satisfaction and Self-employment: Do Men or Women Benefit More from Being Their Own Boss?

John V. Winters, Iowa State University; Karen Maguire, Oklahoma State University - Stillwater May 2020
Eastern Economic Journal 46 (2020): 576-602

Using survey results of self-reported life satisfaction, evidence suggests that self-employed women have significantly higher average satisfaction than do traditionally employed women, but self-employed men report higher rates of dissatisfaction. Self-employed minority men have particularly lower rates of self-reported satisfaction.


This paper uses individual self-reported life satisfaction data to analyze the relationship between self-employment and subjective well-being by gender and race/ethnicity. We document substantial heterogeneity, with women appearing to benefit the most from self-employment. Self-employed women have significantly higher rates of being very satisfied relative to both traditionally employed women and self-employed men. We also find that the self-employed have higher rates of dissatisfaction, and this adverse relationship with self-employment is most pronounced for minorities. These nuanced findings broaden our understanding of the relationship between self-employment and subjective well-being and have important implications for both researchers and policymakers.