Too educated to be happy? An investigation into the relationship between education and subjective well-being

Erich Striessnig, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)
Wolfgang Lutz, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

While education has played a strong role in the ancient debate on the necessary preconditions for the good life, the contemporary literature on subjective well-being has not paid much attention to the possibility of education having an independent effect on happiness. Typically, education is mentioned only as having indirect effects, e.g. through its effect on income and wealth, employment status, health and mortality, marriage success, or as a proxy for socioeconomic status. Also, the view that education – like income – mainly raises aspirations and therefore leads to lower levels of happiness is widespread in the literature, mostly without empirical evidence. Using data from the last five waves of the World Values Survey, the goal of this paper is to comprehensively study the empirical evidence by using logistic regression techniques to shed more light on the neglected role of education in happiness differentials. The results suggest that the relationship between education and happiness is distinct from the relationship between income and happiness. While there is evidence that higher income does not go hand in hand with higher happiness after a certain point, there is no evidence of a similar levelling-off in the relationship between education and happiness.

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Presented in Session 38: Health, well-being and morbidity