Inquiry into high school students’ utility function

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Technická Univerzita v Liberci
Technical university of Liberec, Czech Republic
This study uses data from our life-satisfaction survey of 1,414 students in 11 high schools in Northern parts of Czech Republic in the spring 2017 to discover certain parts of high school students’’ utility function. This is potentially useful for audiences ranging from macro-level policy-makers to teachers to parents to the students themselves in improving the design of policies and practices that either address life-satisfaction directly or affect it indirectly by pursuing other objectives. We use ordered logit and OLS regression models in various specifications to explore how different factors of students’ life from various domains (e.g. housing, economic, lifestyle, personal) associate with their self-assessed degree (0-10 scale) of life satisfaction or happiness. The effects of independent variables were investigated both separately within their own domain, and in all-inclusive models while always controlling for gender, age and specific effects of particular schools. The results confirm quite robustly several well-established and expected effects, namely the positive effects of one’s relations to parents and friends, or one’s health conditions, and negative effects of smoking tobacco or being discriminated. The findings also reveal some relatively unestablished facts such as a large positive effect of being needed, or the negative effect of commuting time. The outright surprising results include the irrelevance of alcohol consumption (contrary to expected negative effects and in contrast to identified negative effects of tobacco consumption) or of the absolute amount of money available (contrary to expected positive effects); the positive effect of cannabis use and of being a vegan; or the partially negative effect of engaging in arts or creative activities. While the above results are not all easily turned into recommendations for students, their parents, school administrators or policy makers on how to secure a happy life of teenagers, there are a few that may go beyond the obvious: avoid smoking, consider commuting time seriously, encourage and nurture good relations. Caveats regarding external validity apply.
utility, happiness, life satisfaction, students, high school, health, relationship, commuting, substance use