According to a new index of happiness based on migratory flows and not on subjective answers to surveys created by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand are the countries where people are happiest.
The surveys normally used to determine the welfare of a country are usually influenced by indiosyncratic factors of each place and some data can be easily manipulated. This has led to countries like Iraq, Haiti and Afghanistan appearing in relatively high positions in other rankings. The new happiness index is based on what people do instead of what people say. The assumption is that a country that everyone wants to go to cannot be very unhappy. Considering this criterion, Spain is lower on this scale with regard to other classifications. “Migratory flows are closely linked to aspects that psychology relates to happiness; on the basis of these results, we can construct a happiness index that considers more logical values,” explains Juan de Dios Tena, a UC3M professor in the Department of Statistics who conducted the study along with researchers from the Universidad de las Islas Baleares and the Universidad Católica del Norte in Chile.
The first places in this ranking are occupied by countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, Norway, Israel, South Korea, Sweden, Canada and Australia. Bolivia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Cameroon, Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria, Afghanistan, South Africa and China are at the bottom of the list. The new ranking, presented at the 14th edition of the Conference on International Economics held this summer in Palma de Mallorca, tries to avoid the subjectivity of surveys. Here the so-called “voting with feet” comes into play, which is the most universal and most primitive way to reveal preferences. One estimates to what degree decisions to emigrate are influenced by variables that reflect economic, social and institutional characteristics of each country and a happiness ranking of countries is created on the basis of this estimate.
Among the 112 countries analyzed in this happiness ranking, Spain is in 49th place. “It is relevant that we have very bad scores in variables related to attitudes and beliefs about our life and the life of others: importance of family, friends, work and national pride,” says Tena. Migratory flows depend not only on the chances of finding work, as is commonly believed, but are also influenced by pollution, terrorism and economic inequality, variables that psychology considers to be determinants of happiness,” he adds.
The use of this type of happiness index goes well beyond academics, according to the researchers, who note that this type of estimation provides an open guide for evaluating any type of political decision. The welfare of a country is not measured only by its per capita income, because many actions that make us poorer also increase our happiness. Good policies, they note, would be those that increase the desire of people to live in the country that carries them out, while bad ones are those that reduce this desire. “Our estimation does not show, for example, that the organization of Olympic Games entails an increase in the number of people that want to live in the country that hosts them,” concludes Tena.
Materials provided by Universidad Carlos III de Madrid - Oficina de Información Científica. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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