As uncomfortable as it is to acknowledge, much about our professional lives is often set when we're children or teens, well before we ever set foot in the work place. Our educations. Our parents' wealth. These things are strong predictors of where we'll end up down the line, regardless of our natural smarts or ambition.
Another item that may belong on the list: mental health. A reminder of that comes today courtesy of a new working paper by Jason Fletcher of the Yale School of Public Health, which reaches the remarkable conclusion that adults who suffer from adolescent depression ultimately make about 20 percent less money than their peers and are somewhat less likely to be employed.
Teenage depression tended to have the biggest impact on employment among women, and reduced labor force attachment by five percentage points overall. It tended to influence earnings more strongly among men. Controlling for whether a subject was still suffering from depression later in life reduced the impact on income from 20 percent to 12 percent -- a steep drop nonetheless.
Despite the many factors it controls for, the paper cautions that it's still premature to draw a causal link between depression and wages. But it argues that its "results are suggestivethat the links between adolescent depression and labor market outcomes are quite robustand important in magnitude, suggesting that there may be substantial labor market returnsto further investments in treatment and opportunities during adolescence."
In other words: our mental health may impact our financial health for years on end. One more reason for parents to watch their kids -- especially their feelings.
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