Gene Expression

Life satisfaction & wealth

Will Wilkinson points me to an interesting paper with some interesting figures, Income, Health and Wellbeing Around the World: Evidence from the Gallup World Poll:



  1. #1 toto
    September 10, 2009

    I call shenanigans. A “grumpiness index” where France doesn’t emerge as a clear outlier is obviously useless!

    I’m sure you could go all philosophical with the way the curve increases sharply for low x, but plateaus out quickly after ~15000. But maybe that’s just an artefact of how “satisfaction” is measured?

    Also: can we plot the “grumpiness factor” (deviation from the trend on this line) against some measure of government intervention / redistribution? Even though the graph doesn’t seem to include Germany, I would predict a rather un-libertarian outcome, at least for higher GDP values.

    (What the hell is wrong with Hong Kong?)

  2. #2 chris y
    September 10, 2009

    What the hell is wrong with Hong Kong?

    They were doing just fine and then somebody delivered them hogtied to Beijing, would be my guess.

  3. #3 John Emerson
    September 10, 2009

    Venezuela wins the “unexpededly happy” prize, Hong Kong the “unexpectedly unhappy” prize. But it seems a bit fluffy to me.

  4. #4 DK
    September 10, 2009

    Overall, looks like a hyperbola. Which makes perfect sense – some money is essential but the satisfaction function saturates. Ergo, money don’t buy happiness. Eyeballing the graph, looks like K1/2 is probably somewhere around $17,000.

  5. #5 John Emerson
    September 10, 2009

    Danes and Finns score highest in absolute satisfaction. What happened to the melancholy Dane and the sullen Finn?

    Beyond the fluff dismissal, I can explain that, first, byt those two nations’ relative lack of poverty, second, by their relative egalitarianism, with less need to be successful, and finally, by a kind of stoicism that forbids reporting dissatisfaction.

    But again, I may be explaining something that doesn’t exist.

  6. #6 Jim Bob Cooter
    September 10, 2009

    Actually, it seems as though money sure as hell DOES buy happiness; it just loses some effectiveness at a certain point. Don’t try to tell me that the good people of Togo would still be hovering around a mean life satisfaction of 3.1 (btw, what are the units here? Smiles?) if their per capita GDP was $20,000.

  7. #7 DK
    September 11, 2009

    Yep, definitely hyperbola. See how the graph of essentially the same thing with log abscissa is a straight line.

    money sure as hell DOES buy happiness; it just loses some effectiveness at a certain point.

    That’s what saturable response such as hyperbola says. The expression “money won’t buy you happiness” is not usually used in the context of comparing Togo to Denmark…

  8. #8 TCO
    September 11, 2009

    I think the bubble size (I assume for population or total economy) is not really needed here. Would be a cleaner chart with data symbols.

  9. #9 toto
    September 12, 2009

    TCO: I don’t know if it’s needed, but it’s mildly useful. E.g. from the size I can infer that the circle that intersects with UK is probably France, not Germany.

  10. #10 nx
    September 12, 2009

    Why is Saudi Arabia’s numbers so high? I expected low life satisfaction numbers but it seems happier than Brazil?!? too unbelievable.

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