Despite what we have been told, money doesn’t seem to be sufficient to explain happiness, or at least not fully. According to data from Gallup’s Global Wellbeing report, countries are classified according to their wellbeing, defined as what their citizens think about their present and future lives. That is, their satisfaction and expectations.
In these terms, the three highest ranking countries are Denmark, Finland, and Norway. Among those Latin American countries close to the top are Costa Rica (6), Panama (12), Brazil (13), and Mexico (18).
As you can see, several developing countries emerge as more advanced, while the United States ranked 14 and the United Arab Emirates 20. However, the report finds at least some link between wellbeing and economic level. Among the 25 countries with the lowest level of wellbeing, 22 are poor countries in Africa. Sadly, Haiti represents our continent in this lowest group.
As shown in the Gallup survey, levels of wellbeing show a high correlation with the income of the survey respondents. Unfortunately, no data are available from Chile. But in the United States, higher income translates into greater wellbeing.
If one examines the data carefully, it becomes clear that education plays a fundamental role in this equation. First, the income level of individuals strongly reflects their years of schooling. The data for Chile do not lie.
That is, the more educated a person is, the higher his or her level of wellbeing and future expectation. But most important is that education is a much better predictor of wellbeing than income alone.
Looking at the chart below we see how this works. Here are the 25 countries with the most and the least wellbeing. Chile is added in red.
On the vertical axis appear the results of the ranking of wellbeing (41 percent for Chile) and on the horizontal axis, the average years of schooling in each country. It is clear that countries with higher rates of schooling also have more satisfied citizens with higher expectations.
It is interesting that Chile has high levels of schooling (10.4 years, according to Casen 2009), yet ranks somewhat low in its level of wellbeing. Perhaps the explanation lies in the quality of our education, or simply that in this remote corner of the world we are somewhat pessimistic.
You already know the conclusion. If you want to invest in your happiness, that of your children and of your country, going crazy over money is not as sure a path as investing in quality education for all.