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Education, Aspirations and Life Satisfaction

  • Francesco Ferrante

    (University of Cassino)

The idea that expanding work and consumption opportunities always increases people’s wellbeing is well established in economics but finds no support in psychology. Instead, there is evidence in both economics and psychology that people’s life satisfaction depends on how experienced utility compares with expectations of life satisfaction or decision utility. In this paper I suggest that expanding work and consumption opportunities is a good thing for decision utility but may not be so for experienced utility. On this premise, I argue that people may overrate their socioeconomic prospects relative to real life chances and I discuss how systematic frustration over unfulfilled expectations can be connected to people’s educational achievement. I test the model’s predictions on Italian data and find preliminary support for the idea that education and access to stimulating environments may have a perverse impact on life satisfaction. I also find evidence that the latter effect is mediated by factors such as gender and age. Indeed, the model seeks to go beyond the Italian case and provide more general insights into how age/life satisfaction relationships can be modelled and explained.

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Paper provided by Universita' di Cassino, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche in its series Working Papers with number 2009-03.

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Length: 16 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:css:wpaper:2009-03
Contact details of provider: Postal: Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche Via S. Angelo Loc. Folcara 03043 Cassino (FR) - Italy
Phone: +3907762994734
Fax: +3907762994834
Web page: http://www.eco-giu.uniclam.it/Dipartimento/Info
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  1. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," NBER Working Papers 12006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. van der Sluis, Justin & van Praag, Mirjam C. & van Witteloostuijn, Arjen, 2007. "Why Are the Returns to Education Higher for Entrepreneurs than for Employees?," IZA Discussion Papers 3058, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  18. Scoppa Vincenzo & Ponzo Michela, 2008. "An Empirical Study of Happiness in Italy," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-23, June.
  19. Enrico Moretti, 2002. "Estimating the Social Return to Higher Education: Evidence From Longitudinal and Repeated Cross-Sectional Data," NBER Working Papers 9108, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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