The Happiest Countries In The World

Alexander E.M. Hess, Thomas C. Frohlich and Vince Calio | USA Today | May 10, 2014

Switzerland's residents are the most satisfied with their lives for the second consecutive year, according to the Better Life Index released last week. The study, published annually by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), reported that United States failed to crack the top 10 for the fourth consecutive year, while neighbors Mexico and Canada did...

In the U.S., life satisfaction continued to drop, from 14th in last year's report to 17th in this year's report. This is despite the fact the U.S. led all nations in both disposable income and household net wealth per capita. One reason, Boarini highlighted, was that inequality remained pervasive in the United States. "We do know the more unequally the income is distributed the lower the life satisfaction." In fact, according to OECD statistics, the U.S. has a higher Gini coefficient — which measures the degree of income inequality in a country after accounting for taxes and transfer payments — than all but a few member nations.

Given how well the country scores in these measures, it is clear that life satisfaction cannot be explained just by considering job opportunities and health. For example, Mexico had extremely low scores in safety, environment, jobs, and health, but still was one of the top-rated nations for life satisfaction. Boarini highlighted this disparity as well, explaining that, despite the nation's problems "when you actually contrast that to what people are reporting they actually perform very well." She also noted that income inequality had declined, which could explain why life satisfaction has improved. "The country has become a little more egalitarian."