Happy Kids Become Wealthy Adults
November 20, 2012

Study Finds Happy Children Earn Higher Incomes

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Researchers from the University College London recently found that children who have a happy childhood have a greater likelihood of growing up into adults who are wealthy.

The study is considered the first in-depth investigation to look at the impact of youthful happiness in future wealth. The finding that happy kids were more likely to earn higher levels of income as adults was discovered Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, a professor of political science at the University College London, and Andrew Oswald, a professor at the University of Warwick. The two analyzed data from 15,000 youths and young adults living in the United States. They measured happiness based off of “positive affects” and “life satisfaction,” and then completed a follow-up about one decade after the initial measurement of happiness.

"Perhaps most importantly, for the general public — and parents in particular — these findings show that the emotional well-being of children and adolescents is key to their future success, yet another reason to ensure we create emotionally healthy home environments,” explained De Neve in a prepared statement.

The two investigators believe that a child´s happiness level and money-earning potential is based off of the idea that happy people have a greater chancing of obtaining higher education. With this degree, the workers can receive more promotions than their coworkers who are not as happy. As such, happiness is thought to impact an individual´s financial standing. For example, based off of a scale of five, even a one-point bump on life satisfaction can result in almost $2,000 more income per annum when somebody is 29-years-old.

In addition, during the research project, the scientists placed emphasis on the relationship that siblings of the study participants had with money and happiness. The results showed that, even with children in the same family, those who were happier tended to earn more money. This correlation between happiness and money can be seen throughout the study, even with factors like education, genetics, IQ, physical health, and self-confidence at play.

“Although human well-being is considered instrumentalist in this paper or as a means– rather than an end in itself–it needs to be emphasized that this is not with a view to putting money center-stage at the expense of happiness. To the contrary, the results indicate that happiness and income are connected by a two-way relationship, and that human well-being can itself be a source of economic dynamism,” concluded the authors.

Based on the findings, the researchers believe that the study could influence public policy on child well-being and parental perceptions on how best to raise children.

"These findings have important implications for academics, policy makers, and the general public,” noted De Neve in the statement. "For academics they reveal the strong possibility for reverse causality between income and happiness — a relationship that most have assumed unidirectional and causal. For policy makers, they highlight the importance of promoting general well-being (GWB), not just because happiness is what the general population aspires to (instead of GDP) but also for its economic impact.”

The results of the study were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).