Monday, July 06, 2009

Things you hope your students don't mention to you...

Let's start off the week with some nonsense-- more happiness rankings! Here is the CNN rundown of the new rankings, which puts Costa Rica at the pole, followed by the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. And, pray tell, what are the criteria?

In a report released Saturday, the group ranks nations using the "Happy Planet Index," which seeks countries with the most content people.

In addition to happiness, the index by the New Economics Foundation considers the ecological footprint and life expectancy of countries.

Happy Planet Index?! Prison rodeo!?

The New Economics Foundation is here. The intro page for the Happy Planet Index is here, and the pdf report itself is here. The final rankings are on page 63 of the pdf. Components of the Happy Planet Index are: Life expectancy, life satisfaction, and ecological footprint. The goal with the final metric is to achieve "one-planet living." I'm guessing they're against colonizing Mars.

I liked this one: "The planet’s overall HPI score of 49 out of 100 reflects the fact that humanity as a whole has much to change..." Remember those nonsense days of yesteryear when a HPI of 49 used to be considered good? Now look how far we've come! Also of note-- by their index, China's doing nearly twice as much towards the end of a "happy planet" than North America. Just consider that sentence for a little bit.

Figure 6 in the report is a scatterplot of happy life years vs. GDP per capita, by country.


Justin M Ross said...

Unbelievable, look at the top 20:
1. Costa Rica
2. Dominican Republic
3. Jamaica
4. Guatemala
5. Vietnam
6. Colombia
7. Cuba
8. El Salvador
9. Brazil
10. Honduras
11. Nicaragua
12. Egypt
13. Saudi Arabia
14. Philippines
15. Argentina
16. Indonesia
17. Bhutan
18. Panama
19. Laos
20. China

What a joke! Next time you are enjoying fireworks with family and friends or surfing the premium movie channels in HD, just remember how good the people of the Honduras have it!

Justin M Ross said...

Lol, on Figure 6 (the scatter plot between # of happy life years vs GDP per capita) they state:

So, do richer countries have higher well-being? The answer, as can be seen in Figure 6, is a resounding ‘yes, but…’. Whilst the poorest countries tend to have the lowest well-being, the figure reveals a clear pattern of diminishing returns. The most important gains in terms of both life expectancy and life satisfaction occur over the first £10,000 of GDP distribution – beyond that there is little systematic difference between nations.

This is an amazing interpretation of diminishing returns in this case! Human biology seems to provide something of a hard upper bound on the number of years one can experience, period!

Secondly, my view of the scatter plot is that until 10K, it is increasing at a very rapid rate, and after that it grows at a relatively constant rate until about 40K, and there are only 3 observations after 40K.

I would love to apply this technique to the prison population and compare it to free people. "Yes, being in prison is bad, but clearly there are diminishing returns to the length of the prison sentence."

Matt E. Ryan said...

And diminishing returns is a crucial concept in the world of marginalism-- we make production decisions concerning the next additional unit, so diminishing returns is a very important concept to identify.

But if we'll accept their inane "happy life years" for a second, we're now talking in absolute terms. It's not like we purchase additional happy life years with higher GDP levels-- the fact is, in absolute terms we are happier with higher incomes, and that is what is to be taken from that plot. Period. (Of course, related is the upper bound issue of life expectancy that you mentioned as well.)

Anonymous said...

Analizing happiness... what a bunch of losers!

Stop buying, start living!

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