How To Measure Happiness

Happiness is elusive but it helps focus an individual with their life design if they consider what metrics contribute to happiness. These metrics might be in error, but at least they are something. The 6 measures, as explained by NPR’s “The Indicator” podcast, are:

These measures have been found to be highly correlated with people’s overall happiness. Of these measures social support and GDP per capita are the most important. But at some point, GDP per capita stops mattering; the Easterlin paradox. “It’s the idea that wealth adds to people’s happiness only up to a point. And at some point, for some reason, getting richer stops making you happier.” There are many working theories and here are some of the more prominent ones:

  • GDP per capita (a rough idea of how wealthy people are in a particular country),
  • healthy life expectancy,
  • how much people trust the government and businesses in their country (is corruption a problem in the government? In businesses?),
  • social support (do you have somebody to count on in times of trouble?),
  • generosity (has a person been generous in the last 30 days to others) and
  • freedom (did you feel a sense of freedom to make your key life decisions?).
  1. (India #141, China #94) Social support has declined even though GDP per capita is rising. Stuff like moving into cities, decline of the extended family.
  2. (USA #19) “People overestimate the happiness they’re going to get from more income or a bigger house. And they underestimate the happiness they would get from more time with the family and less time spent commuting. So, they end up finding themselves in circumstances where they’ve chosen to go for too high an income, too much consumption, not enough time to spend with family and friends. And they end up being anxious, harried, stressed.”
  3. It could just be that the measurements are wrong.

Regardless, the researcher shares that he’s changed his behaviour as a result of this research and recommends “…[T]o start conversations with strangers, to smile at people in the streets, to assume the best rather than the worst about them is a win-win situation. And so, I do it more than I used to. And that’s improved my happiness. And I hope it’s improved somebody else’s, as well. …”

https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/04/08/711132741/how-to-measure-happiness

https://worldhappiness.report/

Canada is #9, Finland #1. Excel file with the data is here (“Chapter 2 – online data ‘Figure2.6’ worksheet):

https://s3.amazonaws.com/happiness-report/2019/Chapter2OnlineData.xls

Canada is just 6% behind Finland and USA is 12.72% behind (5.6% behind Canada). South Sudan, #156, is 272% behind Finland. Surprisingly Australia is at #11 with all it’s sunshine and most goods being locally sourced.

Easterlin Paradox:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easterlin_paradox

Plastic single use bags – the economics

Planet Money explains in “Are Plastic Bag Bans Garbage?

“…sales of garbage bags actually skyrocketed after plastic grocery bags were banned…So about 30% of the plastic that was eliminated by the ban comes back in the form of thicker garbage bags…. On top of that, cities that banned plastic bags saw a surge in the use of paper bags, which she estimates resulted in about 80 million pounds of extra paper trash per year. paper bags are actually worse for the environment. … They require cutting down and processing trees, which involves lots of water, toxic chemicals, fuel, and heavy machinery. … the huge increase of paper, together with the uptick in plastic trash bags, means banning plastic shopping bags increases greenhouse gas emissions. That said, these bans do reduce non-biodegradable litter.”

Organic cotton tote bags need to be used 20,000 times before its use is better than a plastic grocery bag. “…the best reusable ones are made from polyester or plastics like polypropylene. . Those still have to be used dozens and dozens of times to be greener than plastic grocery bags, which have the smallest carbon footprint for a single use.”

“As for bag policies, Taylor says a fee is smarter than a ban. She has a second paper showing a small fee for bags is just as effective as a ban when it comes to encouraging use of reusable bags. But a fee offers flexibility for people who reuse plastic bags for garbage disposal or dog walking. … The best policy, Taylor says, imposes a fee on both paper and plastic bags and encourages reuse.”

15Apr2019 update: Another economics podcast on plastic packaging (Cellophane). It presents the data and decisions that have made the modern plastic world and illustrates nicely the counter-intuitive conclusions that come up all the time in plastic packaging.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csz2w3