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Does Childhood Predict Adult Life Satisfaction? Evidence from British Cohort Surveys


  • We thank the UK Data Archive for access to the data, and four anonymous referees for their valuable comments and suggestions.


We investigate the extent to which childhood characteristics are predictive of adult life satisfaction using data from two British cohort studies. In total, variables observed up to age 16 predict around 7% of the variation in average adult life satisfaction. Adding contemporaneous adulthood variables increases the predictive power to 15.6%, while adding long lags of life satisfaction increases it to 35.5%. Overall, we estimate that around 30–45% of adult life satisfaction is fixed, suggesting that 55–70% is transitory in nature, and that a wide range of observed childhood circumstances capture about 15% of the fixed component.