Ignorance is Bliss... Or is It? An Empirical Look at the Relationship Between Higher Education and Happiness

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Economics | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Louis Johnston, Economics


College students today are bombarded with the message that, to be competitive in the job market, they must receive a college degree. Many are taking this one step further and seeking graduate education. After all, students with a college degree earn more and tend to have more stable jobs, among other things. But does being better off equate to being happier? With Amartya Sen's capabilities approach as a framework, I hypothesized that it would. Using ordered logit regressions, I tested data gathered from the 1972-2006 US General Social Surveys on happiness, educational attainment, various demographic variables, labor force status, health, and income. My results found no relationship between the level of educational attainment achieved and the level of self-reported happiness when all controls were included. Possible explanations for these results include measurement error in the selected variables and self-selection bias in who chooses to attend graduate school.