Personality, Lifetime Earnings, and Retirement Wealth

Published: 2010


The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) presents an unparalleled opportunity to study the association of personality with lifetime economic success. The linkage of HRS survey data with administrative data from the Social Security Administration allows us to look at well-measured lifetime earnings rather than self-reported outcomes in a single year or short period. The wealth data in HRS allow us to look at retirement savings conditional on lifetime earnings. Together, these measures represent the most essential aspects of lifetime economic success. The HRS also measures cognitive abilities and educational attainment, allowing us to control for these and other determinants of economic success. The HRS began collecting data on personality in 2006 as part of a self-administered questionnaire on psychosocial characteristics. Half the sample was given the questionnaire in 2006 and the other half in 2008.

Key Findings