The Relationship Between Wealth and Happiness, by Country
Throughout history, the pursuit of happiness has been a preoccupation of humankind.
Of course, we humans are not just content with measuring our own happiness, but also our happiness in relation to the people around us—and even other people around the world. The annual World Happiness Report, which uses global survey data to report how people evaluate their own lives in more than 150 countries, helps us do just that.
The factors that contribute to happiness are as subjective and specific as the billions of humans they influence, but there are a few that have continued to resonate over time. Family. Love. Purpose. Wealth. The first three examples are tough to measure, but the latter can be analyzed in a data-driven way.
Does money really buy happiness? Let’s find out.
Wealth and Happiness
To crunch the numbers, we looked at data from Credit Suisse, which breaks down the average wealth per adult in various countries around the world.
The table below looks at 146 countries by their happiness score and wealth per adult:
|Country||Median Wealth per Adult (US$)||Happiness Score|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||171,624||7.2|
|🇺🇸 United States||79,274||7.0|
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic||23,794||6.9|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||131,522||6.9|
|🇨🇷 Costa Rica||14,662||6.6|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||21,613||6.6|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||15,495||6.5|
|🇸🇻 El Salvador||11,372||6.1|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||89,671||5.9|
|🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||15,283||5.8|
|🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||22,701||5.7|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR||173,768||5.4|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||4,523||5.2|
|🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire||6,621||5.2|
|🇲🇰 North Macedonia||51,788||5.2|
|🇬🇲 The Gambia||658||5.2|
|🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||622||4.7|
|🇱🇰 Sri Lanka||8,802||4.4|
|🇨🇩 DR Congo||356||4.4|
|🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||370||3.6|
|🇸🇸 South Sudan||2,677||2.9|
While the results don’t definitively point to wealth contributing to happiness, there is a strong correlation across the board. Broadly speaking, the world’s poorest countries have the lowest happiness scores, and the richest report being the most happy.
Regional and Country-Level Observations
While many of the countries follow an obvious trend (more wealth = more happiness), there are nuances and outliers worth exploring.
- In Latin America, people self-report more happiness than the trend between wealth and happiness would predict.
- On the flip side, many nations in the Middle East report slightly less happiness than levels of wealth would predict.
- Political turmoil, an economic crisis, and the devastating explosion in Beirut have resulted in Lebanon scoring far worse than would be expected. Over the past decade, the country’s score has fallen by nearly two full points.
- Hong Kong has seen its happiness score sink for years now. Inequality, protests, instability, and now COVID-19 outbreaks have placed the region in an unusual zone on the chart: rich and unhappy.
Examining Inequality and Happiness
We’ve looked at the relationship between wealth and happiness between countries, but what about within countries?
The Gini Coefficient is a tool that allows us to do just that. This measure looks at income distribution across a population, and applies a score to that population. Simply put, a score of 0 would be “perfect equality”, and 1 would be “perfect inequality” (i.e. an individual or group of recipients is receiving the entire income distribution).
Combined with the same happiness scale as before, this is how countries shape up.
While there is no ironclad conclusion that can be derived from this dataset, there are big picture observations worth highlighting.
The 15 Countries With Highest Income Inequality
|Countries with High inequality||Happiness Score||Gini Score|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||5.2||0.63|
|🇨🇷 Costa Rica||6.6||0.49|
|🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||4.7||0.47|
First, countries with lower income inequality tend to also report more happiness. The 15 countries in this dataset with the highest inequality (shown above) have an average happiness score 1.3 lower than the 15 countries with the lowest inequality (shown below).
The 15 Countries With Lowest Income Inequality
|Countries with low inequality||Happy Score||Gini Score|
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic||6.9||25.3|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||6.6||26|
Next, interesting regional differences emerge.
Despite high income inequality, many Latin American countries report levels of happiness similar to many much-wealthier European nations.
The Bottom Line
People have been seeking understanding on happiness for millennia now, and it’s unlikely that slicing and dicing datasets will crack the code. Still though, much like the pursuit of happiness, the pursuit of understanding is human nature.
And, in more concrete terms, the more policymakers and the public understand the link between wealth and happiness, the more likely we can shape societies that give us a better chance at living a happy life.
The $16 Trillion European Union Economy
This chart shows the contributors to the EU economy through a percentage-wise distribution of country-level GDP.
The $16 Trillion European Union Economy
The European Union has the third-largest economy in the world, accounting for one-sixth of global trade. All together, 27 member countries make up one internal market allowing free movement of goods, services, capital and people.
But how did this sui generis (a class by itself) political entity come into being?
A Brief History of the EU
After the devastating aftermath of the World War II, Western Europe saw a concerted move towards regional peace and security by promoting democracy and protecting human rights.
Crucially, the Schuman Declaration was presented in 1950. The coal and steel industries of Western Europe were integrated under common management, preventing countries from turning on each other and creating weapons of war. Six countries signed on — the eventual founders of the EU.
Here’s a list of all 27 members of the EU and the year they joined.
|Country||Year of entry|
Greater economic and security cooperation followed over the next four decades, along with the addition of new members. These tighter relationships disincentivized conflict, and Western Europe—after centuries of constant war—has seen unprecedented peace for the last 80 years.
The modern version of the EU can trace its origin to 1993, with the adoption of the name, ‘the European Union,’ the birth of a single market, and the promise to use a single currency—the euro.
Since then the EU has become an economic and political force to reckon with. Its combined gross domestic product (GDP) stood at $16.6 trillion in 2022, after the U.S. ($26 trillion) and China ($19 trillion.)
Front Loading the EU Economy
For the impressive numbers it shows however, the European Union’s economic might is held up by three economic giants, per data from the International Monetary Fund. Put together, the GDPs of Germany ($4 trillion), France ($2.7 trillion) and Italy ($1.9 trillion) make up more than half of the EU’s entire economic output.
These three countries are also the most populous in the EU, and together with Spain and Poland, account for 66% of the total population of the EU.
Here’s a table of all 27 member states and the percentage they contribute to the EU’s gross domestic product.
|Rank||Country||GDP (Billion USD)||% of the EU Economy|
The top-heaviness continues. By adding Spain ($1.3 trillion) and the Netherlands ($990 billion), the top five make up nearly 70% of the EU’s GDP. That goes up to 85% when the top 10 countries are included.
That means less than half of the 27 member states make up $14 trillion of the $16 trillion EU economy.
Older Members, Larger Share
Aside from the most populous members having bigger economies, another pattern emerges, with the time the country has spent in the EU.
Five of the six founders of the EU—Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium—are in the top 10 biggest economies of the EU. Ireland and Denmark, the next entrants into the union (1973) are ranked 9th and 11th respectively. The bottom 10 countries all joined the EU post-2004.
The UK—which joined the bloc in 1973 and formally left in 2020—would have been the second-largest economy in the region at $3.4 trillion.
Sectoral Analysis of the EU
The EU has four primary sectors of economic output: services, industry, construction, and agriculture (including fishing and forestry.) Below is an analysis of some of these sectors and the countries which contribute the most to it. All figures are from Eurostat.
Services and Tourism
The EU economy relies heavily on the services sector, accounting for more than 70% of the value added to the economy in 2020. It also is the sector with the highest share of employment in the EU, at 73%.
In Luxembourg, which has a large financial services sector, 87% of the country’s gross domestic product came from the services sector.
Tourism economies like Malta and Cyprus also had an above 80% share of services in their GDP.
Meanwhile 20% of the EU’s gross domestic product came from industry, with Ireland’s economy having the most share (40%) in its GDP. Czechia, Slovenia and Poland also had a significant share of industry output.
Mining coal and lignite in the EU saw a brief rebound in output in 2021, though levels continued to be subdued.
|Rank||Sector||% of the EU Economy|
|4.||Agriculture, forestry and fishing||1.8%|
Less than 2% of the EU’s economy relies on agriculture, forestry and fishing. Romania, Latvia, and Greece feature as contributors to this sector, however the share in total output in each country is less than 5%. Bulgaria has the highest employment (16%) in this sector compared to other EU members.
The EU imports nearly 60% of its energy requirements. Until the end of 2021, Russia was the biggest exporter of petroleum and natural gas to the region. After the war in Ukraine that share has steadily decreased from nearly 25% to 15% for petroleum liquids and from nearly 40% to 15% for natural gas, per Eurostat.
Headwinds, High Seas
The IMF has a gloomy outlook for Europe heading into 2023. War in Ukraine, spiraling energy costs, high inflation, and stagnant wage growth means that EU leaders are facing “severe trade-offs and tough policy decisions.”
Reforms—to relieve supply constraints in the labor and energy markets—are key to increasing growth and relieving price pressures, according to the international body. The IMF projects that the EU will grow 0.7% in 2023.
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