It is commonly-believed that education is a good thing for individuals. Yet its correlation with subjective well-being is most often only weakly positive, or even negative, despite the many associated better individual-level outcomes We here square the circle using novel Japanese data on happiness aspirations. If reported happiness comes from a comparison of outcomes to aspirations, then any phenomenon raising both at the same time will have only a muted effect on reported well-being. We find that around half of the happiness effect of education is cancelled out by higher aspirations, and suggest a similar dampening effect for income.
Keywords: education; satisfaction; aspirations; income