This fall, ASR staff members were in New York for the release of the second World Happiness Report. The report was released at a joint conference of Columbia’s Earth Institute and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an organization that tracks well-being across the globe. The title chapter reported that the United States was 14th in life satisfaction ratings and showed one of the larger gaps between life satisfaction in men and women. The U.S. was also ranked 21st amongst OECD countries in the percentage of people who reported having a friend or relative they can rely on. One of the many takeaways from the report was the high marks received by low –income countries in subjective well-being categories. Chile, for example, reported the highest life satisfaction of all OECD countries.
The final chapter of the report, written by our colleague John Hall of the United Nations’ Human Development Program, emphasized the importance of measuring both subjective and objective measures of happiness. As Hall points out, “it is usually people’s own perceptions of the state of the world, rather than other’s measurements– or perceptions — of the “facts,” that drive individual behavior. And so contrasting the objective data with perceptions is often necessary for understanding the nature of a problem and the ways in which it should be tackled.” The integration of both subjective and objective measures is something ASR has been working on for over 30 years. ASR’s Community Assessment Projects often include questions about personal satisfaction, quality of life, the environment, and local government, while at the same time reporting poverty rates, water pollutants, and voter turnout.
For more information about world happiness or subjective measures of well-being, please read the full report here, or call ASR’s President Susan Brutschy or Samantha Green who attended the event at 831-728-1356.