Well-being over the life span: semiparametric evidence from British and German longitudinal data

Publication type

Conference Paper


BHPS-2009 Conference: the 2009 British Household Panel Survey Research Conference, 9-11 July 2009, Colchester, UK


Publication date

June 1, 2009


This paper applies semiparametric regression models using penalized splines to
investigate the profile of well-being over the life span. Splines have the advantage that
they do not require a priori assumptions about the form of the curve. Using data from
the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and the German Socio-Economic Panel
Study (SOEP), the analysis shows a common, quite similar, age-specific pattern of life
satisfaction for both Britain and Germany that can be characterized by three age stages.
In the first stage, life satisfaction declines until approximately the fifth life decade. In
the second age stage, wellbeing clearly increases and has a second turning point
(maximum) after which well-being decreases in the third age stage. Several reasons for
the three-phase pattern are discussed. We point to the fact that neither polynomial
functions of the third nor the fourth degree describe the relationship adequately:
polynomials locate the minimum and the maximum imprecisely. In addition, our
analysis discusses the indistinguishability of age, period, and cohort effects: we propose
estimating age-period models that control for cohort effects including substantive
variables, such as the life expectancy of the birth cohort, and further observed
socioeconomic characteristics in the regression.



- http://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/events/conferences/bhps-2009-conference/programme

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