1 July 2021

PhD student Isabel Skak Olufsen presents her research on Inequality in Life Satisfaction

Isabel will present at the Ifo Conference on "Genes, Social Mobility, and Inequalities across the Life-Course”

The  paper that Isabel will present studies whether differences in subjective well-being of people is meritocratic by being more related to school performance than family background. We focus our analysis on Denmark for two reasons: A unique data infrastructure enables us to link survey information on subjective well-being with high-quality administrative data on school performance and parental socioeconomic status, and estimates for Denmark likely represent an upper bound on the role of merits because of its meritocratic institutional setting.
We find systematic differences in subjective well-being already in early adulthood where differences in economic opportunities are not yet visible. At age 18-19, about 1/4 of inequality in happiness can be attributed to differences in merits relative to family background. The relative contribution of merits almost doubles when looking at people in midlife (age 40-55) where it is also higher than the contribution of merits to income inequality. If we include educational attainment (and income position) in adulthood then 55 percent (80 percent) of the happiness inequality in midlife is meritocratic.

 The online conference is hosted by the Ifo Institute in Munich and you can find the full conference program here.