Charting the Relationship Between Money and Happiness
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Can money buy you happiness?
It’s a longstanding question that has many different answers, depending on who you ask.
Today’s chart approaches this fundamental question from a data-driven perspective, and it provides one potential solution: money does buy some happiness, but only to a limited extent.
Money and Happiness
First, a thinking exercise.
Let’s say you have two hypothetical people: one of them is named Beff Jezos and he’s a billionaire, and the other is named Jill Smith and she has a more average net worth. Who do you think would be happiest if their wealth was instantly doubled?
Beff might be happy that he’s got more in the bank, but materially his life is unlikely to change much – after all, he’s a billionaire. On the flipside, Jill also has more in the bank and is likely able to use those additional resources to provide better opportunities for her family, get out of debt, or improve her work-life balance.
These resources translate to real changes for Jill, potentially increasing her level of satisfaction with life.
Just like these hypotheticals, the data tells a similar story when we look at countries.
The Data-Driven Approach
Today’s chart looks at the relationship between GDP per capita (PPP) and the self-reported levels of happiness of each country. Sources for data are the World Bank and the World Happiness Report 2017.
According to the numbers, the relationship between money and happiness is strong early on for countries. Then later, when material elements of Maslow’s hierarchy are met, the relationship gets harder to predict.
In general, this means that as a country’s wealth increases from $10k to $20k per person, it will likely slide up the happiness scale as well. For a double from $30k to $60k, the relationship still holds – but it tends to have far more variance. This variance is where things get interesting.
Some of the most obvious outliers can be found in Latin America and the Middle East:
In Latin America, people self-report that they are more satisfied than the trend between money and happiness would predict.
Costa Rica stands out in particular here, with a GDP per capita of $15,400 and a 7.14 rating on the Cantril Ladder (which is a measure of happiness). Whether it’s the country’s rugged coastlines or the local culture that does the trick, Costa Rica has higher happiness ratings than the U.S., Belgium, or Germany – all countries with far higher levels of wealth.
In the Middle East, the situation is mostly reversed. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Turkey, and the U.A.E. are all on the other side of the trend line.
Within regions, there is even plenty of variance.
We just mentioned the Middle East as a place where the wealth-happiness continuum doesn’t seem to hold up as well as it does in other places in the world.
Interestingly, in Qatar, which is actually the wealthiest country in the world on a per capita basis ($127k), things are even more out of whack. Qatar only scores a 6.37 on the Cantril Ladder, making it a big exception even within the context of the already-outlying Middle East.
Nearby Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., and Oman are all poorer than Qatar per capita, yet they are happier places. Oman rates a 6.85 on the satisfaction scale, with less than one-third the wealth per capita of Qatar.
There are other outlier jurisdictions on the list as well: Thailand, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan are all significantly happier than the trend line (or their regional location) would project. Meanwhile, places like Hong Kong, Ireland, Singapore, and Luxembourg are less happy than wealth would predict.
Visualizing the Rise of Digital Payment Adoption
By 2023, digital transaction values could reach $6.7T globally—catalyzed by digital commerce and mobile payments. COVID-19 is only accelerating this trend.
Digital Payments: The Evolution of Currency
Over the last decade, the digital payments landscape has undergone a structural shift.
Consumer behaviors are changing—moving towards contactless and cashless transactions. Meanwhile, as the magnitude of COVID-19 grows, these trends have only accelerated.
Today’s infographic navigates the digital payments ecosystem, exploring its history and innovative technologies, and how it continues to grow as a solution of choice for trillions of dollars of transactions each year.
Digital Payments Timeline
The origins of digital payments began over 25 years ago with then 21 year-old entrepreneur Dan Kohn in Nashua, New Hampshire, who sold a CD over the internet via credit card payment.
- 1994: First online purchase is made
A CD of Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales is sold for $12.48 on NetMarket.
- 1997: First mobile payments and first contactless payments
Coca-Cola installs two vending machines in Helsinki that accept payment by text message.
- 1999: Paypal launches electronic money transfer service
Early on, PayPal’s user base grew nearly 10% daily. Tesla CEO Elon Musk and venture capitalist Peter Thiel were among its co-founders.
- 2003: Alibaba launches Alipay in China
Today, the mobile payment platform has witnessed stunning growth — leveraging digital wallets accepted by merchants in over 50 countries and regions.
- 2007: M-PESA creates the first payments system for mobile phones
Kenya-based M-PESA launched its mobile banking and microfinancing service. Today, it has over 37 million active users on its platform across Africa.
- 2009: Bitcoin enables secure, untraceable payments
Satoshi Nakamoto develops the first decentralized payment network in the world.
- 2013: WeChat Pay is rolled into the popular messaging platform
By 2018, it surpasses 800 million monthly active users.
- 2014: Apple Pay launches
By 2023, over $2 trillion of mobile payment transactions could be authenticated by biometric technology.
As technological advances continue to unfold, advances in digital payment technologies are creating ripple effects globally.
Geographical Differences in Adoption
Unsurprisingly, the sheer volume of digital payments has continued to grow at a double-digit pace, now surpassing the $4.1 trillion mark.
How do cashless payments break down across different countries?
|Country||Daily Average Volume of Cashless Payments||Average Annual Cashless Payments Per Person|
Singapore has the highest number of cashless payments per individual, averaging 831 cashless payments annually. The country’s robust e-commerce market is supported by high-speed, reliable internet and a young, tech-savvy population.
With e-commerce spending accounting for about 6% of South Korea’s national GDP, it is another leading purveyor of a cashless society. Meanwhile, Sweden is projected to become a cashless nation as early as 2023.
Pivotal factors—including core infrastructure, consumer behavior and rising revenues—provide a glimpse into the rapidly changing payment horizon.
The Future of Digital Payments
As transactions rise, a number of other technological innovations could be instrumental to shaping the evolution of the digital payments industry:
- Messaging-app payments
Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat can leverage the reach of billions of users.
- Voice-activated commands
Paying for gas, groceries, or retail via voice could soar.
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) payments
Bank of America and Visa are investing heavily into P2P partnerships.
Over one million transactions take place daily on average.
- Biometric payments
Smartphone biometric security features could spur traction across digital payments.
- Facial recognition
May soon replace QR codes across retail, transit, and airports in China.
- Crypto wallet adoption
Blockchain wallet users are predicted to soar to 200 million by 2030.
- Hardware & in-store interfaces
Square, Stripe, and Clover are driving new mobile processing integrations.
The $4.1T digital payments ecosystem is facing a notable transition, catalyzed by a wave of global advancements and disruption. As the industry continues to widen its reach, consumers and investors alike can benefit from the shift towards a cashless economy.
The Racial Wealth Gap in America: Asset Types Held by Race
White families are more likely to hold assets of any type compared to other races. This chart highlights the substantial racial wealth gap.
The Racial Wealth Gap
People of color have faced economic inequality for generations, and the recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests has renewed discussions on these disparities.
Compared to White families, other races have lower levels of income and net worth. They are also less likely to hold assets of any type. In fact, 19% of Black families have zero or negative net worth, while only 9% of White households have no wealth.
Today’s chart uses data from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances to highlight the racial wealth gap, and the proportion of households that own different kinds of assets by racial group.
Asset Types Held By Race
The financial profile between racial groups varies widely. Below is the percentage of U.S. families with each type of asset, according to the most recent survey from 2016.
|Family-owned Business Equity||15%||7%||6%||13%|
Vehicles are the most common asset across all racial groups, followed by a primary residence.
However, the level of equity—or home value less debts—families have in their houses differs by race. White families have equity of $215,800, whereas Black and Hispanic households have net housing wealth of $94,400 and $129,800 respectively.
In addition, White households are more likely to hold financial assets such as retirement accounts, family businesses, and stocks. These assets are instrumental in building wealth, and are prominent in the wealth composition of America’s richest families.
With fewer people of color holding these assets, they miss out on higher average returns than low-risk assets, as well as the power of compound interest. These portfolio differences are striking, but they are not the most important contributing factor in the racial wealth gap.
Demographic and Economic Variations
White households are also more likely to have demographic characteristics that are associated with wealth. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, they are:
- Older, with more than half of households age 55 and up
- More highly educated, with 51% having some type of degree
- Less likely to have a single parent
- More likely to have received an inheritance
For example, 39% of White heads of households have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 23% and 17% for Black and Hispanic household heads, respectively. However, education doesn’t fully explain the wealth inequities.
Enormous wealth disparities exist between families with the same education level. Even in cases where Black and Hispanic household heads have obtained a bachelor’s degree, their families’ median wealth of $68,000 and $78,000 respectively is still lower than the $98,000 median wealth for White families where the head has no bachelor’s degree.
After accounting for demographic factors, researchers still found there were considerable inequities. What, then, could be primarily responsible for the racial wealth gap?
The Income Gap
While previous research found that the wealth gap is “too big” to be explained by a difference in income, a recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland offers a new perspective. Focusing on White and Black U.S. households only, researchers analyzed the dynamics of wealth accumulation over time, as opposed to previous studies that considered short time periods.
They found that income inequality was the primary contributor to the racial wealth gap. According to the model, if Black and White households had earned the same labor income from 1962 onwards, the Black-to-White wealth ratio would have reached 0.9 by 2007.
Moving forward, the study concludes that policy changes will likely have a positive impact if they address issues contributing to income gaps. This includes reducing racial discrimination in the labor market, and creating programs, such as mentorships, that improve environments for specific racial subgroups.
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