Findings on the impact of income and education on wellbeing

September 2013

ARTD consultant Dr Ioana Ramia presented her research findings about the impact of income and education on subjective wellbeing at the Australian Social Policy Conference 2013.  You might assume wellbeing would be associated with the material satisfaction that comes with higher educational achievement, better job outcomes and higher income, but the research says different. Researchers have often found people with no tertiary education are happier or more satisfied with their lives than those with a tertiary education.

Ioana’s research, conducted for her doctorate through the University of NSW, used data from the 2010 Household Income and Labour Dynamics (HILDA) Survey to look at this issue in Australia. She found that the impact income has on subjective wellbeing differs between those with and without a tertiary education, but the results vary with the measure of income used (individual or household).

When asked about wellbeing, those with a tertiary education think more of their homes and their free time, while those without a tertiary education think more about their salary, job prospects and neighbourhood. While they're answering the same question, they're assessing different things. For those without a tertiary education, happiness was correlated to how much money they had, but not exhaustively. After hitting the median income for people without a tertiary education people, more money does not increase happiness.

This story was picked up in The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun.