Sex Differences in the Effect of Education on Depression: Resource Multiplication or Resource Substitution?
Does education improve psychological well-being more for one sex than for the other? Resource substitution theory hypothesizes that education improves well-being more for women, because socioeconomic disadvantage makes them depend more on education to achieve well-being. Resource multiplication implies the opposite, that education improves well-being more for men, because they get bigger labor market payoffs from it such as authority and earnings. Data from a 1995 survey of US adults with follow-ups in 1998 and 2001 support the resource substitution hypothesis. Depression decreases more steeply for women than for men as the level of education increases. The gender gap in depression essentially disappears among persons with a college degree or higher. Two mediating interactions appear to account for the convergence. Education increases work creativity more sharply for women than for men, thereby reducing depression. Education increases the sense of control for both sexes equally, but depression declines more steeply for women as sense of control increases. Growth curve analyses of depression vectors confirm the resource substitution pattern. The adulthood life course pattern of depression levels and changes depends more strongly on education for women than for men.
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