Washington: For the first time, machine learning now enables researchers to rank the most important factors that predict future affluence - and the outcome might surprise you.
Education and occupation were the best predictors -but surprisingly, a person's ability to delay instant gratification was also among the most important determinants of higher income, beating age, race, ethnicity and height.
Many factors are related to how much money a person will earn, including age, occupation, education, gender, ethnicity and even height. Behavioral variables are also implicated, such as one relating to the famous "marshmallow test."
This study of delay discounting, or how much a person discounts the value of future rewards compared to immediate ones, showed children with greater self-control were more likely to have higher salaries later in life.
However, the study's lead author, Dr William Hampton, now at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, says more traditional ways of analyzing data have been unable to indicate which of these factors are more important than others.
"Using machine learning, our study was the first to create a validated rank ordering of age, occupation, education, geographic location, gender, race, ethnicity, height, age and delay discounting in income prediction," said Hampton.
Dr Hampton also had an interesting observation for parents, saying that those who develop the ability to delay gratification are likely to invest in their own earning potential.
"If you want your child to grow up to earn a good salary, consider instilling in them the importance of passing on smaller, immediate rewards in favor of larger ones that they have to wait for. This is probably easier said than done, as very few people naturally enjoy waiting, but our results suggest that those who develop the ability to delay gratification are likely investing in their own earning potential," he added.
The study has been published in the journal- Frontiers in Psychology.