Labour market experience, educational attainment and self-reported happiness: crowding-out amongst young people in Hong Kong

Stefan KÜHNER, Jin JIANG*, Zhuoyi Vincent WEN, Ka Wai Maggie LAU

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Recent literature on education and work well recognises the ‘crowding-out perspective’ of how higher education expansion impacts the labour market experience of young people with different educational levels. However, the relationship between the labour market experience and young people’s self-reported happiness remains less well understood. This paper examines whether a ‘crowding out’ effect occurs amongst post-secondary degree-holders on the self-reported happiness of young people (aged 16-34) amidst increasing difficulties during their school-to-work transition. Drawing on a city-wide online survey in a leading global city, Hong Kong, statistical analysis shows that contrary to the mainstream ‘crowding out perspective’, self-reported happiness is lower amongst young people with high rather than low educational attainment. However, in the absence of a ‘happiness premium’ of educational attainment, young people in Hong Kong with secondary degrees or below are much more sensitive to adverse labour market experiences, such as unemployment, high job pressure and long working hours. No similar moderating effect of educational attainment is found on the relationship between the self-reported happiness of young people and regular work shifts. The implications of these findings on the ‘crowding out perspective’ for youth development policy within East Asia and Hong Kong productivist welfare paradigm are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-291
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Education and Work
Issue number3
Early online date24 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is part of the research project titled The Well-being of Young People during Their Transition into Work and Adulthood, funded by the Lingnan University, Hong Kong Seed Fund. The authors thank Professor Lok Sang Ho for access to the online LIFE Happiness Survey data. The authors are indebted to Sing Yi Luk for her research support. We also thank the attendants of the 14th East Asian Social Policy Research Network Annual Conference (Nagoya University, Japan, 2–3 August 2017) and the Conference on Youth Opportunity in Asia (National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan, 18–19 December 2017) for their valuable comments and suggestions. All remaining errors remain the authors’ own.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Happiness
  • labour market experience
  • crowding-out perspective
  • higher education
  • young people


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