Thursday, July 26, 2007

Polls, Wealth and Happiness

Called World Poll, and conducted by the Gallup organisation, it spans 130 countries, many of which are being polled for the first time. Other surveys are smaller. The respected Global Attitudes Survey of the Pew Research Centre, an offshoot of an American charity, operates annually in just over 50 countries. The World Values Survey run from the University of Michigan is more comprehensive (over 80 countries), but updated only once in five years.

Gallup's pollsters asked a standard question: how satisfied are you with your life, on a scale of nought to ten? In all the rich places (America, Europe, Japan, Saudi Arabia), most people say they are happy. In all the poor ones (mainly in Africa), people say they are not. As Angus Deaton of Princeton University puts it, a map of the results looks like an income plot of the world (see map). There are some exceptions: Georgia and Armenia, though not among the world's poorest states, are among the 20 most miserable. Costa Rica and Venezuela, though middle-income countries, are among the 20 happiest. The Brazilians, pictured above, seem a bit more cheerful than their income level justifies.
Interesting to get another map that ranks countries' happiness. While Bhutan with its Gross National Happiness has been a standout in other such rankings, it doesn't appear to be that high on this one.

I believe this survey to be much superior to the World Values Survey as rather than having a 10 point scale, Gallup's poll goes to eleven. This allows people to be one happier (well actually one less happy as it is a 0-10 point scale rather than a 1-10 point scale, but hey who's counting?). :)

I wish I could get a hold of the data to see each country's value rather than just looking at a range, but my extensive search came up with nothing.

The Fly Bottle points out this paper by Angus Deaton that analyzes the results and finds that "average happiness is strongly related to per capita national income, with each doubling of income associated with a near one point increase in life satisfaction on a scale from 0 to 10". I wanted to dig in deeper to the report, but got scared when he defined happiness as:
Who knew that you needed calculus to be able to measure happiness?

via The Economist


Audacious Epigone said...


This has a lot more face validity than Adrian White's tripe.

If you find the specific by-nation values, please post them in the future or at least alert me. There are all kinds of interesting correlations that could be done.

Fat Knowledge said...

I will, but I think it is unlikely. I emailed the Gallup people and I got this:

We appreciate your interest in Gallup World Poll, our independent, self-funded, proprietary measure of global well-being.

We operate on a business model and data is provided within client consulting relationships (see below). If you are interested in pricing at this point please let me know. Gallup will make a new product announcement between now and 1 January 08 and our website will be re-launched Fall 2007 with significant new content.

Something tells me if you have to ask how much it costs then you can't afford it. :)

Audacious Epigone said...


Heh, well, here's to someone on the inside leaking it to the web!

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