The Effect of Adolescent Sleep Patterns on Future Adult Earnings

Reviewed by Katie Mimini

In the aptly named paper “The Effect of Adolescent Sleep Patterns on Future Adult Earnings,” Judy Hou seeks to contribute to the existing rich discussion on the negative effects of chronic sleep deprivation in the United States with an exploration of its long-term effects. Specifically, Hou aims to explore how different sleep habits held in adolescence can affect one’s earnings as an adult, either directly through altering one’s work capabilities or indirectly through influencing intermediate factors such as high school GPA.

To begin, Hou notes that there is a large body of evidence suggesting that sleep deprivation can cause a multitude of neurocognitive, mental, and somatic consequences. She also cites that “research has shown a positive short-term effect of healthy sleep patterns on wage and workplace productivity for adults” (Hou 2). In light of the body of research demonstrating the pejorative effects of sleep deprivation, Hou predicts that adolescents who get 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep per day (the optimal amount of sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation) will have higher earnings than both those who under-sleep and those who over-sleep.

Hou completes her study through an analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, an extensive longitudinal survey of adolescents that questions the subjects every few years in Waves, with Wave I occurring at ages 12-17 and Wave IV at ages 24-32. The research analyzes men, women, and specifically women who work full time, “due to women’s earnings trajectories often being disrupted by children and familial responsibilities” (Hou 13). Some intermediate outcomes taken into account are high school GPA, graduation status, and adult sleep patterns.

Although there was some slight variation in the group of women because of aforementioned circumstances, the study found “no statistically significant effect of adolescent sleep hours optimality on adult income” in any case studied (Hou 17). In terms of why her study does not coincide with previous studies on this matter, Hou posits that it is difficult to measure effects on a large scale because of the very personal nature of sleep. In other words, since sleep deprivation will manifest itself differently in everyone, it might not be possible or sensible to make sweeping generalizations about how much sleep and entire group needs.

See the full paper here!

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