The University Record, May 6, 1997

What do women want? $40,000 a year

By Deborah Gilbert
News and Information Services

A bewildered Sigmund Freud once said, "The great question . . . which I have not been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research . . . is `What does a woman want?'" A U-M study now has an answer: Women want an income of $40,000 or more.

Women who earn $40,000 or more feel a greater sense of belonging and function better psychologically than do women earning less. They also perceive less conflict and more social support from others.

This is one of the observations nursing Prof. Bonnie M. Hagerty draws from her study of the impact a sense of belonging has on the psychological functioning of men and women. In general, she concludes, being able to say "I belong" is important to the healthy psychological functioning of men, but it is vital to women's. The sexes also differ on how income, spousal conflict and religion relate to a sense of belonging.

"People who can say `I belong'---at work, in their family or in a community group---function better psychologically than people who feel like square pegs in round holes," Hagerty says.

"In general, both men and women who felt they belonged perceived less conflict in their lives and believed they got more social support from others than did the non-belongers.".

Those who didn't feel they belonged were more likely to experience depression, anxiety, loneliness, suicidal thoughts and psychiatric treatment. They also were less likely to be involved in community activities. Women, however, experienced the effects of belonging or non-belonging more acutely than men.

The study also reported other differences between the sexes in regard to belonging:

Women who had a lower sense of belonging reported more conflict with their spouses. "Men with a lower sense of belonging, however, reported more conflict with their friends," Hagerty says.

A woman's sense of belonging was related to her income. "We found that women who earned $40,000 or more were more likely to report a sense of belonging than women at lower income levels. Surprisingly, there was no difference among the men according to income."

Men who identified themselves as Protestant or Catholic were more likely to feel they belonged than men who did not have a religious preference. Women who identified themselves as Protestant or Catholic, however, were no more likely to feel they belonged than women who did not have a religious preference.

Ethnicity had no effect on the sense of belonging for either sex.

"The feeling of not belonging may be related to a number of social ills," Hagerty says. "It can trigger hostility and violence in families and the work place, and it may drive people to join gangs to gain that sense of belonging. It is a complicated and little-understood need that requires more research and attention from the psychological community."

Hagerty's research colleagues on the study were Reg. A. Williams, associate professor of nursing; James C. Coyne, professor of family practice and of psychology; and Margaret R. Early, doctoral candidate in nursing. The study appeared in the Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, August 1996.