What Predicts a Successful Life? A Life-Course Model of Well-Being

October 2013

What Predicts a Successful Life

Policymakers who care about well-being need a recursive model of how adult life-satisfaction is predicted by childhood influences, acting both directly and (indirectly) through adult circumstances. The authors estimate such a model using the British Cohort Study (1970). They show that the most powerful childhood predictor of adult life-satisfaction is the child's emotional health, followed by the child's conduct. The least powerful predictor is the child's intellectual development. This may have implications for educational policy. Among adult circumstances, family income accounts for only 0.5% of the variance of life-satisfaction. Mental and physical health are much more important.


Client: Department for Work and Pensions

Authors: Richard Layard, Andrew E. Clark, Francesca Cornaglia, Nattavudh Powdthavee & James Vernoit

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