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.
The Big Five: Largest Acquisitions by Tech Company
The ‘Big Five’ tech companies are rapidly reshaping the global tech landscape with their acquisitions, devouring any competitor who gets in their way.
The Big Five: Largest Acquisitions by Tech Company
The Big Five tech giants, or “FAAMG”—Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Google (Alphabet)—have a combined market capitalization of over $4 trillion.
These powerful tech behemoths often devour the talent, technology, or entire businesses of aspiring competitors. Given their financial weight, mergers and acquisitions have become a key tactic in maintaining their strong grip on tech supremacy.
Today’s Chart of the Week explores the world’s most powerful tech companies and their biggest acquisitions to date.
Which Acquisitions Were a Success?
While these tech giants may have had big aspirations for these exceedingly large deals, they have mixed success rates.
Microsoft made its big move 2016 to buy LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, and it’s the most sizable acquisition by any of the Big Five tech companies.
Microsoft’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions:
|LinkedIn (2016)||$26.2 billion||Social Media|
|Skype (2011)||$8.5 billion||Telecommunications|
|GitHub (2018)||$7.5 billion||Software|
|Nokia (2014)||$7.2 billion||Telecommunications|
|aQuantive (2007)||$6.3 billion||Marketing|
The LinkedIn deal was made due to the synergy between the two companies’ offerings, and Microsoft’s desire to gain access to LinkedIn’s 575 million members.
However, not all of Microsoft’s acquisitions have been as successful, such as its 2014 purchase of Nokia’s Devices & Services business for $7.2 billion. This seemed like a smart move at the time, considering the Finnish company held 41% of the global handset market.
Yet, Microsoft sold the asset for a mere $350 million just two years later. Microsoft shifted its strategy and exited the feature phone market, choosing to focus on a narrow, niche market for their hardware.
Amazon has closed more than $20 billion in acquisitions and investments since 2017. This includes the purchase of Whole Foods, which Amazon bought for $13.7 billion, and is the company’s largest acquisition to date.
Amazon’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions:
|Whole Foods (2017)||$13.7 billion||Retail|
|Zappos (2009)||$1.2 billion||Retail|
|Ring (2018)||$1.2 billion||Technology|
|PillPack (2018)||$1 billion||Pharmaceuticals|
|Twitch (2014)||$970 million||Social Media|
From purchases to bolster the AI of smart assistant Alexa, to Wi-Fi enabled doorbell Ring, recent additions clearly show the company intends to cement its presence in people’s homes.
After acquiring Whole Foods, Amazon began offering store discounts to Prime customers, in an attempt to bundle its home offerings and provide a more holistic customer experience.
Alphabet has made several daring moves into the hardware and data science sectors. The company’s biggest acquisition was Motorola, which it bought in 2012 for $12.5 billion.
Alphabet’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions:
|Motorola (2012)||$12.5 billion||Telecommunications|
|Nest (2014)||$3.2 billion||Technology|
|DoubleClick (2007)||$3.1 billion||Marketing|
|Looker (2019)||$2.6 billion||Software|
|YouTube (2006)||$1.7 billion||Social Media|
However, the purchase of Motorola was a bet that didn’t pay off. Alphabet sold off much of Motorola’s assets for less than $3 billion in 2014, a little less than two years after it had originally acquired it.
Alphabet continues to consolidate its acquisitions in order to simplify its organizational structure. DoubleClick, acquired in 2007, merged with Google Analytics 360 Suite under the Google Marketing Platform—making it easier for marketers to access their metrics using one platform.
Out of the Big Five companies, Apple has the fewest acquisitions over $1 billion. Its largest purchase was for Beats Electronics, which it acquired for $3 billion in 2014.
Apple’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions
|Beats (2014)||$3 billion||Music|
|Dialog Semiconductor (2018)||$600 million||Manufacturing|
|Anobit (2011)||$500 million||Manufacturing|
|Shazam (2017)||$400 million||Music|
|NeXT Computer (1996)||$400 million||Technology|
Apple’s increasing music streaming efforts have been evident, with the acquisition of Shazam three years after it purchased Beats Electronics.
In an intriguing recent turn of events, Apple recently announced it will acquire the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business. This $1 billion deal will allow Apple to build all of its devices in-house, and better prepare the iPhone for the upcoming 5G push.
Facebook’s largest acquisition has been WhatsApp Messenger, which it purchased for $22 billion in 2014. The WhatsApp acquisition is the second largest of the Big Five, following Microsoft’s LinkedIn purchase.
Facebook’s 5 Biggest Acquisitions:
|WhatsApp (2014)||$22 billion||Social Media|
|Oculus (2014)||$2 billion||Technology|
|Instagram (2012)||$1 billion||Social Media|
|LiveRail (2014)||$500 million||Marketing|
|Onavo (2013)||$200 million||Analytics|
Aside from absorbing any competitors who encroach on Facebook’s turf—such as WhatsApp and Instagram—Facebook’s takeovers have been aimed at venturing into uncharted territory. The acquisition of virtual reality manufacturer, Oculus, is evidence of Facebook’s bet on virtual reality as the future of engagement.
“After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, or studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world —just by putting on goggles in your home.”
Predicting the Next Shift
The Big Five are some of the most influential companies in the world today.
Beyond rapidly reshaping the global tech landscape, these acquisitions provide important context on how tech companies consolidate power—and, more importantly, what will fuel their next phase of growth.
The Most Miserable Countries in the World
The annual Misery Index ranks the most and least miserable countries, based on four economic factors—unemployment, inflation, lending rates, and GDP growth.
The Most Miserable Countries in the World
Some people believe that happiness comes from within. In the world of economics, however, happiness may be more linked to quantitative factors such as inflation, lending rates, employment levels, and growth in gross domestic product (GDP).
This week’s chart uses data from Steve Hanke of the Cato Institute, and it visualizes the 2019 Misery Index rankings, across 95 countries that report this data on a consistent basis.
The index uses four key economic variables to rank and score countries:
- Lending rate
- Unemployment rate
- GDP per capita growth
Here are the Misery Index scores for all 95 countries:
|Rank||Country||Contributing Factor||Misery Index Score|
|#4||🇧🇷 Brazil||Lending Rates||53.6|
|#7||🇿🇦 South Africa||Unemployment||42.0|
|#8||🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||Unemployment||38.2|
|#9||🇪🇬 Egypt||Lending Rates||36.8|
|#10||🇺🇦 Ukraine||Lending Rates||34.3|
|#23||Costa Rica||Lending Rates||21.7|
|#26||Dominican Republic||Lending Rates & Unemployment||20.3|
|#29||Papua New Guinea||Lending Rates||19.2|
|#35||Sri Lanka||Lending Rates||16.0|
|#40||Trinidad & Tobago||Lending Rates||14.7|
|#41||New Zealand||Lending Rates||14.4|
|#62||United Kingdom||Lending Rates||9.6|
|#68||United States||Lending Rates||8.7|
|#71||Hong Kong||Lending Rates||8.3|
|#87||Czech Republic||Lending Rates||5.0|
To calculate each Misery Index score, a simple formula is used: GDP per capita growth is subtracted from the sum of unemployment, inflation, and bank lending rates.
Which of these factors are driving scores in some of the more “miserable” countries? Which countries rank low on the list, and why?
The Highest Misery Index Scores
Two Latin American countries, Venezuela and Argentina, rank near the top of Hanke’s index.
1. Vexation in Venezuela
Venezuela holds the title of the most “miserable” country in the world for the fourth consecutive year in a row. According to the United Nations, four million Venezuelans have left the country since its economic crisis began in 2014.
Turmoil in Venezuela has been further fueled by skyrocketing hyperinflation. Citizens struggle to afford basic items such as food, toiletries, and medicine. The Cafe Con Leche Index was created specifically to monitor the rapidly changing inflation rates in Venezuela.
Not only does Venezuela have the highest score in the Misery Index, but its score has also seen a dramatic increase over the past year as the crisis has accelerated.
2. Argentina’s History of Volatility
Argentina is the second most “miserable” country, which comes as no surprise given the country’s history of economic crises.
The 2018 Argentine monetary crisis caused a severe devaluation of the peso. The downfall forced the President, Mauricio Macri, to request a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
To put things in perspective, this is the 22nd lending arrangement between Argentina and the IMF. Only six countries have had more commitments to the international organization, including Haiti (27) and Colombia (25).
The Lowest Misery Index Scores
The two countries with the lowest scores in the index have one thing in common: extremely low rates of unemployment.
1. Why Thailand is the Land of Smiles
Thailand takes the prize as the least “miserable” country in the world on the index. The country’s unemployment rate has been remarkably low for years, ranging between 0.4% and 1.2% since 2011. This is the result of the country’s unique structural factors. The “informal” sectors—such as street vendors or taxi drivers—absorb people who become unemployed in the “formal” sector.
Public infrastructure investments by the Thai government continue to attract both private domestic and foreign investments, bolstering the country’s GDP alongside tourism and exports.
2. Hungary’s Prime Minister Sets the Score
Hungary is the second least “miserable” country in the world according to the index.
In 2010, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán implemented a workfare program which diverted menial tasks to thousands of job seekers. Over the same period that the program ran, the national unemployment rate fell from 11.4% to 3.8%.
Orbán won a controversial fourth term in 2018, possibly in part due to promises to protect the country’s sovereignty against the European Union. Despite accusations of populism and even authoritarian tendencies, the Prime Minister still commands a strong following in Hungary.
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