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Age and the Gender Gap in the Sense of Personal Control

Catherine E. Ross and John Mirowsky
Social Psychology Quarterly
Vol. 65, No. 2 (Jun., 2002), pp. 125-145
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3090097
Page Count: 21
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Age and the Gender Gap in the Sense of Personal Control
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Abstract

The theory of personal control predicts that women have a lower sense of control than men, but the evidence is equivocal. Inconsistencies in research results suggest that women's sense of control is lower than men's under some conditions, but not others. We hypothesize that the gender gap in perceived control is greater for older persons than for younger. Compared with their male counterparts, older women may face more educational, employment, economic, and health disadvantages than do younger women. To test the hypotheses that men have a higher sense of personal control than women, that the gap between men and women is larger in older age groups than in younger, and that education, work, economic conditions, and health account for the age-based effect of gender on perceived control, we use the survey of Aging, Status, and the Sense of Control (ASOC), in which a representative sample of U.S. respondents were interviewed in 1995 and again in 1998. We find support for the hypothesis that the gender gap in personal control is greater among older persons than younger, and that over time women's sense of control declines more than men's. Education, personal employment history, household income, and physical functioning account for some of the age-based effect of gender on perceived control. Work fulfillment, fairness of domestic labor, economic hardship, and self-reported health do not, however.

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