America continues its long slide on the World Happiness Report – MarketWatch

Norway was No. 1 out of 155 countries on the World Happiness Report, up from No. 4 last year, followed by Denmark (last year’s No. 1), Iceland and Switzerland. These four countries rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance. “Their averages are so close that small changes can re-order the rankings from year to year,” the report said.

The report, introduced in 2005, involved polling of 1,000 residents per country by research organization Gallup, and was put together by Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a group linked to the United Nations and led in part by economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, known for “The End of Poverty” and other books. Where necessary, Gallup seeks the permissions of national, regional, and local governments. The interviews are conducted by phone and face-to-face.

“Norway moves to the top of the ranking despite weaker oil prices,” the report noted. “It is sometimes said that Norway achieves and maintains its high happiness not because of its oil wealth, but in spite of it. By choosing to produce its oil slowly, and investing the proceeds for the future rather than spending them in the present, Norway has insulated itself from the boom and bust cycle of many other resource-rich economies.”

The U.S. has seen its happiness slide happiness over the last decade. In 2007, it ranked No. 3 among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. Last year, it was 19th, down from 13th the year before. “The predominant political discourse in the United States is aimed at raising economic growth, with the goal of restoring the American Dream and the happiness that is supposed to accompany it. But the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach,” the report concluded.

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For those interviewed in the report, perception is reality. At least, as far as their happiness is concerned and, experts say, the divisive political climate likely hasn’t helped. “The United States can and should raise happiness by addressing America’s multi-faceted social crisis — rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust — rather than focusing exclusively or even mainly on economic growth, especially since the concrete proposals along these lines would exacerbate rather than ameliorate the deepening social crisis,” the report said.

The U.S showed less social support, less sense of personal freedom, lower donations, and more perceived corruption of government and business, it said. “America’s crisis is, in short, a social crisis, not an economic crisis… Almost all of the policy discourse in Washington, D.C. centers on naïve attempts to raise the economic growth rate, as if a higher growth rate would somehow heal the deepening divisions and angst in American society. This kind of growth-only agenda is doubly wrong-headed.”

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The U.S. economy’s expansion slowed in the fourth quarter of 2016, and annual growth failed to reach 3% for an 11th straight year, according to Commerce Department data released in January. But the national unemployment rate dipped to 4.7% from 4.8%, the government said earlier this month, meaning that more people entered the labor force in search of work and fewer gave up looking for jobs. That’s less than half of its 2009 peak of 10% unemployment during the depths of the Great Recession.

All of the other countries in the Top 10 — Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden — also have high values in all six of the key variables used to explain happiness differences among countries: income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust, with the latter measured by the absence of corruption in business and government. The Central African Republic was last at No. 155, just below Burundi, Tanzania, Syria and Rwanda.

America continues its long slide on the World Happiness Report – MarketWatch