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:


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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?)

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.

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

By John Emerson (not verified) on 10 Sep 2009 #permalink

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.

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.

By John Emerson (not verified) on 10 Sep 2009 #permalink

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.

By Jim Bob Cooter (not verified) on 10 Sep 2009 #permalink

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...

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.

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.

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