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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

Today’s chart is best viewed full-screen. Explore the high resolution version by clicking here.

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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Chart of the Week

Trump’s Relationship with the Price of Oil

What goes through the head of a U.S. president? The tweets of U.S. President Donald Trump reveal a contentious relationship with the price of oil and OPEC.

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Visualizing Trump’s Relationship with the Price of Oil

What goes through the head of a U.S. president?

That is a question that both voters and leaders alike would love to know the answer to. As it stands, scores of pundits and analysts already dissect everything from the choice of a tie, to whom a leader sits next to at a state dinner, to glean the potential direction of government policy.

Financial markets rely on the accurate interpretation of government policy to guide investment decisions. But what happens when you’re faced with a world leader who broadcasts his unfiltered thoughts instantaneously and globally? It’s sure to stir up international attention.

This week’s chart is inspired by work done by John Kemp, an energy reporter for Reuters. Kemp tracked all instances of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweets mentioning oil and OPEC, against the shifting price of oil.

Where’s Your Head At?

U.S. President Donald Trump has actively worked to tie the success of his administration to the fortune of the economy and stock market.

If the economy does well, Trump hopes cheap gas at the pump will help translate into votes at the ballot box in 2020.

The key to keeping the economy growing is access to cheap energy, and oil is the critical commodity that’ll keep a fragile economy on the road. This is a line of thinking that can be seen throughout Trump’s tweets on the subject.

Tracking Trump’s Tweets

This week’s chart tracks President Donald Trump’s tweets from April 2018 to March 2019 that mention oil and OPEC.

Pre-Sanctions

The tweets start five months before the deadline of sanctions on Iran. During this timeframe, speculation that Trump would place sanctions on the oil-producing nation drove up the price with the prospect of a restricted supply of oil and increased tensions in the Middle East.

Despite the implications of U.S.-imposed sanctions, Trump squarely put the blame on OPEC for this period of rising oil prices. Tweets such as “OPEC is at it again. Not Good!” or “The OPEC monopoly must get price down now!” can be seen in this period.

Whether these tweets had any influence on oil producers is unclear, but they certainly outline a policy preference for cheap oil and a general animosity towards OPEC.

Post-Sanctions

On Nov. 4, 2018, Trump did impose sanctions but excluded Iranian oil exports, deflating a speculative bubble around the price of oil, and the president’s ire towards the region.

In the aftermath of sanctions, repeated news of record oil production and growing energy independence in the U.S. helped drive the price of oil back down. Though the president’s mood lightened, he still persisted in his accusations of OPEC manipulating the price.

Prices continued to fall, plummeting to nearly $50 per barrel by the end of 2018. Cheap oil is a direct threat to the profits of OPEC nations, but higher prices can create an array of challenges for the U.S. economy.

So despite a U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia, this is a natural tension baked into the relationship.

So, what would a U.S. foreign policy look like without dependence on the Middle East?

Shifting Sands

The Middle East has had a considerable influence on U.S. foreign policy since the harsh lessons of 1970s energy crisis. Multiple wars of intervention to protect Saudi oil interests—and in turn, ensuring continued American access to oil—have ravished the region and led to a state of dysfunction and constant tension.

However, with the recent declaration of American energy independence, this relationship may change with a renewed prospect for peace. Trump may work to further undermine the power of OPEC to control oil prices, as well as the Middle East’s influence on U.S. foreign policy.

American energy independence is already challenging established relationships around the world. For example, Ukraine just recently accepted its first shipment of American oil in a move to counter Russia’s influence in the region.

A New Era

Diplomacy by Twitter has yet to prove to be an effective bridge in sustaining good international relations. That said, charting the tweets of world leaders is a unique way to interpret government policy and energy economics in this new era of social media.

It seems that the next time you want to know what is going through a leader’s head, you can simply try checking their tweets.

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Chart of the Week

Visualizing the Wealth of Nations

These 10 countries hold 74% of the world’s $204 trillion in private wealth. How will this wealth of nations change over the next decade?

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Visualizing the Wealth of Nations

Just as there exists a longstanding inequality in the distribution of household wealth, so exists a considerable differential in the amount of wealth held by countries on the international stage.

Simply put, some nations are “haves”, while many others are “have-nots”.

“Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality.”

– Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Ranking Riches

We previously showed you how the ranking of the richest countries in the world has changed over the course of the last 10 years (2008-2018).

Today’s chart keys on a slightly different question.

What are the wealthiest nations today, both in absolute and per capita terms, and how is this list projected to change over the next decade? Let’s see how the wealth of nations stack up.

Private Wealth: Now and in the Future

Using data from the Global Wealth Migration Review, here are the 10 wealthiest nations both now and as forecasted in 2028.

RankCountryWealth (2018)Wealth (2028F)Approx. Growth
#1🇺🇸 United States$60.7 trillion$72.8 trillion20%
#2🇨🇳 China$23.6 trillion$51.8 trillion120%
#3🇯🇵 Japan$19.1 trillion$24.9 trillion30%
#4🇮🇳 India$8.1 trillion$22.8 trillion180%
#5🇦🇺 Australia$6.0 trillion$10.8 trillion80%
#6🇬🇧 United Kingdom$9.1 trillion$10.0 trillion10%
#7🇩🇪 Germany$8.8 trillion$9.7 trillion10%
#8🇨🇦 Canada$6.0 trillion$7.8 trillion30%
#9🇫🇷 France$5.9 trillion$6.4 trillion10%
#10🇮🇹 Italy$3.8 trillion$4.2 trillion10%

It’s worth noting that these figures are meant to represent wealth, which is defined as the total amount of private wealth held by individuals in each country. It includes assets like property, cash, equities, and business interests, minus any liabilities.

China has been the best performing wealth market in the last decade, and these projections show the country as continuing on that track. In fact, both China and India are expected to see triple-digit growth in private wealth between now and 2028.

As far as developed countries go, it’s not surprising that growth rates are much more modest. In Europe, countries like Great Britain, Germany, France, and Italy are only expected to add 10% to private wealth in 10 years, while Canada (30%) and the U.S. (20%) do marginally better.

One notable exception here is Australia, which is expected to add 80% to private wealth over the timeframe – and it will leapfrog both Germany and the U.K. in the rankings in the process.

Wealth per Capita

Here’s a look at the wealth of nations in a different way, this time with numbers adjusted on a per capita basis.

RankCountryEst. PopulationWealth per capita (2018)
#1🇲🇨 Monaco38,695$2,114,000
#2🇱🇮 Liechtenstein37,810$786,000
#3🇨🇭 Switzerland8,420,000$315,000
#4🇱🇺 Luxembourg590,667$300,000
#5🇦🇺 Australia24,600,000$244,000
#6🇳🇴 Norway5,258,000$198,000
#7🇺🇸 United States327,200,000$186,000
#8🇸🇬 Singapore5,612,000$177,000
#9🇭🇰 Hong Kong7,392,000$169,000
#10🇨🇦 Canada36,540,000$163,000

When using per capita numbers, it’s absolutely no contest.

Monaco, the city-state on the French Riviera, is a money magnet with $2.1 million of private wealth per citizen. This means the average Monacan is at least 10 times richer than the average North American or European.

Liechtenstein, a microstate that sits in the Alps between Switzerland and Austria, also has a high average wealth of $786,000 per person. Like Monaco, its population is well under 50,000 people.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that three countries on the per capita list also made the overall list. Put another way, the countries of Australia, Canada, and the United States can all claim to be among the wealthiest of nations in both absolute and per capita terms.

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