Healthy relationships, responsible financial decisions, and personally meaningful work are three pillars of adult happiness. Stability achieved in these life domains can be viewed as the foundation for adult happiness.
How do young adults develop the knowledge, skills and values that lead to long-term stability and happiness?
To answer this question, we launched the Arizona Pathways to Life Success for University Students research project in 2007 (also known as “APLUS”) to examine the factors that shape individual pathways to adult stability and happiness.
This unique longitudinal research study follows the same group of young adults from their first year in college through adulthood. Our approach combines family and developmental theories to examine the process by which young adults develop financial capability (e.g., financial knowledge, skills, values) and its associations with adult life outcomes (e.g., career, family formation, health, happiness).
Five waves of data have been collected to date: Wave 1 baseline data, collected in spring 2008 (age 18-21), Wave 1.5 economic impact data collected in spring 2009 (ages 19-22), Wave 2 data, collected in fall 2010 (age 21-24), Wave 3 data, collected in spring-summer 2013 (age 23-26) and Wave 4 data collected in spring-summer 2016 (ages 26-29).
Why does it matter?
The pathway to adulthood is an unfolding process of preparing for more complex life-choices and greater personal responsibility. As young adults mature, they acquire the knowledge and skills to weigh alternatives and make choices to achieve their personal goals.
Among the exciting parts of a longitudinal survey is the ability to examine how individual changes in finances and happiness intersect over time and how this intersection is affected by macro-level economic and social issues.
In the face of changing personal and external circumstances, individuals must continually adapt their financial knowledge, skills and behaviors to make the best financial choices to maintain long-term financial well-being.
This longitudinal study provides a unique opportunity to provide insights for empowering young adults nationwide to make positive life choices during a time of economic and social change.