June 2022

IZA DP No. 15360: Occupational Status and Life Satisfaction in the UK: The Miserable Middle?

published in: Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2022, 204, 509-527

We use British panel data to explore the link between occupational status and life satisfaction. We find puzzling evidence, for men, of a U-shaped relationship in cross-section data: employees in medium-status occupations report lower life satisfaction scores than that of employees in either low- or high-status occupations. This puzzle disappears in panel data: the satisfaction of any man rises as he moves up the status ladder. The culprit seems to be immobility: the miserable middle is caused by men who (in our data) have always been in medium-status occupations. There is overall little evidence of a link between occupational status and life satisfaction for women.