LSE Research Online, published 20 October 2021
We examine how intergenerational mobility impacts on subjective wellbeing (SWB) drawing on data from the British Cohort Study. Our SWB measures encapsulate both life satisfaction and mental health, and we consider both relative and absolute movements in income. We find that relative income mobility is a significant predictor of life satisfaction and mental health, whether people move upward or downward. For absolute income, mobility is only a consistent predictor of SWB and mental health outcomes if the person moves downwards, and in this case the impact is far larger than relative mobility. For both relative and income mobility, downward movements impact SWB to a greater extent than upward movements, consistent with exhibiting loss aversion. Notably, we find that social class mobility does not affect SWB. We present evidence that the significant relative and absolute mobility effects we find operate partially through financial perceptions and consumption changes which can occur because of income mobility.
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