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The Relationship Between Money and Happiness

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Charting the Relationship Between Money and Happiness

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.

Outlier Regions

Some of the most obvious outliers can be found in Latin America and the Middle East:

Latin America vs. 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.

Outlier Countries

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.

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The Wealthiest People in the World, Outside of America

This graphic shows the wealthiest people in the world that live in countries either than America, from luxury moguls to India’s titans.

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The Wealthiest People in the World, Outside of America

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Today, nine of the top 10 wealthiest people in the world are American, largely due to fortunes in big tech—but looking beyond U.S. borders tells a different story.

In Asia, people in the highest echelons of wealth are energy and industrial titans, while the richest in Europe run luxury conglomerates and major consumer firms. Many of these companies are well known globally, and several are only known within their region.

This graphic shows the richest people that live outside of America, based on data from Bloomberg.

The World’s Richest: A Global Perspective

Here are the wealthiest non-American people in the world as of January 2024:

RankNameCountryNet Worth
Jan 2024
1Bernard Arnault🇫🇷 France$183B
2Mukesh Ambani🇮🇳 India$108B
3Carlos Slim🇲🇽 Mexico$101B
4Françoise Bettencourt Meyers🇫🇷 France$97B
5Gautam Adani🇮🇳 India$96B
6Amancio Ortega🇪🇸 Spain$85B
7Zhong Shanshan🇨🇳 China$62B
8Gerard Wertheimer🇫🇷 France$47B

France’s Bernard Arnault, with a net worth of $183 billion, is the world’s richest person thanks to the success of LVMH, the luxury conglomerate he runs.

With brands including Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Christian Dior, LVMH is among the largest public companies in Europe, reaching a $444 billion valuation in 2024. Last year, the company witnessed record revenues driven by sales in its fashion and leather divisions.

Latin America’s richest person is Carlos Slim, with a fortune of $101 billion. Slim’s net worth is equal to nearly 8% of Mexico’s GDP. His wealth is largely derived from his ownership of América Móvil, Latin America’s largest mobile-phone operator, as well as his conglomerate, Grupo Carso.

The world’s richest woman is Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, also from France. According to Bloomberg, Bettencourt Meyers’ controls one-third of L’Oreal, and is the chairwoman of her family’s private equity firm, Tethys Investments.

As China’s richest person, Zhong Shanshan is chairman of bottled water company, Nongfu Spring. The company is listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, where it raised $1.1 billion from its 2020 IPO. He is also involved with Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise, a producer of vaccines.

While the richest people in America are heavily concentrated in tech, not one on this list derives the majority of their wealth from the sector, illustrating a clear departure from this trend.

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