Education and Happiness in Adolescence and Early Adulthood


Lee, Kristen Schultz & Yang, Yulin (2019). Education and Happiness in Adolescence and Early Adulthood. Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. New York, NY.


Some scholars have suggested that happiness should be one of the central objectives of education. Although social scientists know quite a bit about other predictors of happiness, such as the influences of age, income, and personality, surprisingly little is known about the effects of schooling on happiness and, more specifically, about how happiness changes over time as a function of education. Analyzing four waves of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, this research is motivated by the following questions: (1) How are education and happiness related in adolescence and early adulthood? (2) How does the association between higher education and happiness vary by socio-economic status and post-secondary school characteristics and how are secondary school characteristics associated with happiness? We find evidence that attaining a college degree or more is not associated with greater happiness in early adulthood. In addition, students who are foreign born and those attending more selective post-secondary institutions report relatively more of a “happiness return” on their education. In addition, high school characteristics such as the presence of caring teachers and a positive and supportive school environment are shown to have positive effects on the happiness of students in high school. The magnitude of the high school context measures suggest that school context has the potential to boost the happiness of students to a similar extent as other individual-level advantages such as a higher GPA or a higher family SES.

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association


Lee, Kristen Schultz
Yang, Yulin

Year Published


City of Publication

New York, NY

Reference ID