Inequality and Happiness

According The Economist, the relationship between happiness and wealth inequality is more complicated than one might think. Referencing an October 12th How's Life? report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the wealth inequality in a given nation has little correlation with the happiness inequality (disparity between happiest and least happy) of that nation's residents. These data suggest that residents of nations with more egalitarian wealth distribution are not necessarily more satisfied than those living in countries with high levels of wealth inequality.

The OECD report finds that, on average, well-being has increased over the past fifteen years. Possible explanations for this increase are that on average, people are less likely to be unemployed and experience better housing conditions. They also live longer and have higher educational attainment. These findings, however, are considerably varied across different countries as well as different populations. Individuals with less education and lower income scored, on average, lower on all measures of well-being examined in the report. They had shorter lives, experienced more health problems, and their children performed worse academically than the children of more educated parents with higher incomes. They also reported more exposure to crime and air pollution.
The OECD measures income distribution using the Gini index, which produces a coefficient value between 0 and 1, with 0 representing complete equality. Chile, Mexico, Turkey, and the United States have the highest levels of unequal income distribution. Nordic and Eastern European countries have a more equal distribution of income.


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