Machine Learning Reveals Predictors of Income

Why do some people become richer than others? The ability to delay instant gratification could be one of the most important factors, according to research by Dr. William Hampton of University of St. Gallen.

Income is a primary determinant of social mobility, career progression, and personal happiness. Income also varies with demographic variables like age and education, with more oblique variables such as height, and with behaviors such as delay discounting, i.e., the propensity to devalue future rewards. However, the relative contribution of each these salary-linked variables to income is not known. Further, much of past research has often been underpowered, drawn from populations of convenience, and produced findings that have not always been replicated.

Hampton and colleagues tested a large (n = 2,564), heterogeneous sample, and employed a novel analytic approach: using three machine learning algorithms to model the relationship between income and age, gender, height, race, zip code, education, occupation, and discounting.

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