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The paradox of wealthy nations' unhappy adolescents


  • Dirk Bethmann

    (Department of Economics, Korea University, Seoul 02841, South Korea)

  • Robert Rudolf

    (Division of International Studies, Korea University 145, Anam-ro, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul 02841, South Korea)


Using PISA 2018 data from nearly half a million 15-year olds across 72 middle- and high-income countries, we find a negative log-linear relationship between per-capita GDP and adolescent life satisfaction. This finding stands in stark contrast to the otherwise positive relationship found between GDP per capita and adult life satisfaction. Our analysis suggests that this apparent paradox can largely be attributed to higher learning intensity in higher-income countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Dirk Bethmann & Robert Rudolf, 2021. "The paradox of wealthy nations' unhappy adolescents," Discussion Paper Series 2101, Institute of Economic Research, Korea University.
  • Handle: RePEc:iek:wpaper:2101

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    economic development; adolescent life satisfaction; learning intensity; education competition; wellbeing-efficiency trade-off; PISA;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development

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