Published on 18 February 2022
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The heterogeneous relationship of education with wellbeing

A working paper exploring how higher educational attainment is associated with different trajectories in life satisfaction over time, by Marco Felici and Dr Matthew Agarwala.


We use the theory of subjective wellbeing (SWB) homeostasis, combined with the properties of education as a positional good, to make predictions about the distinct relationship between education and SWB across the distribution of SWB. Theoretically, we propose that education acts as a buffer against negative shocks to SWB, but in the absence of such shocks, might lead to some individuals becoming frustrated achievers. Empirically, we conjecture that the relationship between education and SWB should be large, positive, and significant for those with low SWB, but that it should fall in significance and magnitude for those with higher SWB. Using two different datasets on the United Kingdom, we first test these hypotheses in the cross-section and then characterise their longitudinal dynamics in an event study design. Our predictions are confirmed in the cross-section and are consistent with the longitudinal results. We further illustrate how the results follow a geographic gradient.


Marco Felici

Dr Marco Felici

Affiliated Researcher

Dr Marco Felici works at the intersection of policy and research, with interests spanning household finance, housing, subjective wellbeing, and mental health. With colleagues at the Bennett Institute, he explores...

Matthew Agarwala

Dr Matthew Agarwala

Project Leader: The Wealth Economy

Dr Matthew Agarwala is an economist interested in wealth-based approaches to measuring and delivering sustainability, wellbeing, and productivity. His research is motivated by the belief that 21st century progress cannot...

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