I won’t deny that there’s a lot of interesting material in “Priceless: The Nonpecuniary Benefits of Schooling” (Oreopoulos and Salvanes 2011, Journal of Economics Perspectives).  The theme, of course, is that the benefits of schooling go far beyond mere extra income.  I was struck, though, by the tiny effect of education on job satisfaction.  Take a look at the fraction of people who are fairly, very, or completely satisfied with their jobs as a function of education:


[The black bar shows the raw result; the white bar holds income constant.]

Dropouts are just 7 percentage-points less satisfied than college grads?  Hmm.

But what happens if you treat the GSS’s original 1-7 scale (1=”complete satisfied”, 7=”completely dissatisfied”) as a continuous variable?  I expected to see a bigger effect of education, but I was wrong.  The correlation isn’t just statistically insignificant; it reverses sign, with every year of education predicting a score .006 higher (=less satisfied).  Controlling for log income, education actually predicts noticeably lower job satisfaction:


I haven’t spent a lot of time with this data, so perhaps I’ve made a mistake somewhere.  But the simplest interpretation is that people with more education expect more from their jobs – financially and otherwise – so they’re harder to please.  Net expected effect of education on job satisfaction: roughly zero.  The hedonic treadmill strikes again?