Measuring resilience to major life events

Fabrice Etilé, Paul Frijters, David W. Johnston, Michael A. Shields

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


There is great interest in understanding who in the population is resilient in the face of major life events, and who is not. In this paper we construct a revealed measure of adulthood psychological resilience by modelling individuals’ responses to ten adverse life events using a dynamic finite mixture regression model applied to 17 years of panel data. Our methodology accounts for non-random selection into events, and differences between individuals in anticipation, immediate response, and speed of adaptation. We find considerable heterogeneity in individuals’ responses to events such as major financial shocks, redundancy and bereavement. We also find that our measure of resilience is correlated with clinical measures of mental health, and that it significantly predicts the psychological response to out-of-sample events. The strongest predictor of our measure of resilience is internal locus of control, which is an individual's belief that life outcomes are under their control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)598-619
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • Major life events
  • Mixture model
  • Panel data
  • Psychological health
  • Resilience

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