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Estimating the influence of life satisfaction and positive affect on later income using sibling fixed-effects

Author

Listed:
  • De Neve, Jan Emmanueal

    (University College London)

  • Oswald, Andrew

    (University of Warwick)

Abstract

The question of whether there is a connection between income and psychological well-being is a long-studied issue across the social, psychological, and behavioral sciences. Much research has found that richer people tend to be happier. However, relatively little attention has been paid to whether happier individuals perform better financially in the first place. This possibility of reverse causality is arguably understudied. Using data from a large US representative panel we show that adolescents and young adults who report higher life satisfaction or positive affect grow up to earn significantly higher levels of income later in life. We focus on earnings approximately one decade after the person’s well-being is measured; we exploit the availability of sibling clusters to introduce family fixed-effects; we account for the human capacity to imagine later socio-economic outcomes and to anticipate the resulting feelings in current wellbeing. The study’s results are robust to the inclusion of controls such as education, IQ, physical health, height, self-esteem, and later happiness. We consider how psychological well-being may influence income. Sobel-Goodman mediation tests reveal direct and indirect effects that carry the influence from happiness to income. Significant mediating pathways include a higher probability of obtaining a college degree, getting hired and promoted, having higher degrees of optimism and extraversion, and less neuroticism.

Suggested Citation

  • De Neve, Jan Emmanueal & Oswald, Andrew, 2012. "Estimating the influence of life satisfaction and positive affect on later income using sibling fixed-effects," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 100, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cge:wacage:100
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Andrew J. Oswald & Eugenio Proto & Daniel Sgroi, 2015. "Happiness and Productivity," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(4), pages 789-822.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Schröder, Carsten & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 2017. "Revisiting the evidence for cardinal treatment of ordinal variables," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 337-358.
    2. Ayllón, Sara & Fusco, Alessio, 2017. "Are income poverty and perceptions of financial difficulties dynamically interrelated?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 103-114.
    3. O'Donnell, Gus & Oswald, Andrew J., 2015. "National well-being policy and a weighted approach to human feelings," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 59-70.
    4. Drouvelis, Michalis & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2015. "Are happier people less judgmental of other people's selfish behaviors? Experimental survey evidence from trust and gift exchange games," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 111-123.
    5. Nikolova, Milena & Graham, Carol, 2015. "In transit: The well-being of migrants from transition and post-transition countries," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 164-186.
    6. Dohmen, Thomas, 2014. "Behavioral labor economics: Advances and future directions," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 71-85.
    7. Chuluun, Tuugi & Graham, Carol, 2016. "Local happiness and firm behavior: Do firms in happy places invest more?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 41-56.
    8. Grimani, Katerina, 2014. "Labor earnings and Psychological well-being: An Empirical Analysis," MPRA Paper 57098, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Adler, Matthew D. & Dolan, Paul & Kavetsos, Georgios, 2017. "Would you choose to be happy? Tradeoffs between happiness and the other dimensions of life in a large population survey," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 60-73.
    10. Cai, Shu & Park, Albert, 2016. "Permanent income and subjective well-being," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 298-319.
    11. Krause, Annabelle, 2013. "Don’t worry, be happy? Happiness and reemployment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 1-20.
    12. Bruno Frey & Jana Gallus & Lasse Steiner, 2014. "Open issues in happiness research," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 61(2), pages 115-125, June.
    13. Vendrik, Maarten C.M., 2013. "Adaptation, anticipation and social interaction in happiness: An integrated error-correction approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 131-149.
    14. Hudson, Eibhlin, 2013. "Does relative material wealth matter for child and adolescent life satisfaction?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 38-47.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    income; life satisfaction; positive affect;

    JEL classification:

    • I0 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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