Friday, February 19, 2010

Does Education Make You Happy?

Ignorance isn’t bliss, but maybe education is:

Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and his colleague Charlotta Mellander have taken a closer look at the metropolitan well-being numbers. They found moderate correlations between happiness and other factors, such as wages, unemployment and output per capita.

But the variable they looked at that showed the strongest relationship with happiness was “human capital,” measured as the share of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher:


See how close those dots are to the line of best fit? That means that educational attainment can help explain a lot of the variation in well-being levels across American cities. (The correlation between happiness at the city or metro level and human capital is o.68, Mr. Florida writes.)

Now of course, correlation is not causation. Maybe the factors that lead to higher levels of human capital also lead to higher levels of general well-being. Still, colleges might want to start sending the chart above to high school seniors who are thinking about skipping out on higher education.

Somehow, I don’t think this applies to law school…


Shawn said...

I realize this is somewhat addressed in the lower paragraph, but is worthy of re-stating: Maybe happier people tend to get more schooling? That seems at least as likely.

Jeff said...

An important finding in neuropsychology is that negative emotions, negative moods, and touchy tempers mellow a great deal with age. Seniors experience fewer bouts of depression, shorter and lighter depressed periods than they did when they were young.

It's only tangentially related to the post, but neat to know. There could be some marginal affect if not controlling for age, but I think the NP findings deal with a trend over a far wider range than educational studies consider.