Inequality is usually thought of in terms of income or wealth, but it might make even more sense to think of it in terms of how satisfied people are with their lives. A recent study, How’s Life?, attempts to shed light on people’s experience and the variation in life satisfaction within countries.
Looking at the difference between the life-satisfaction scores of the person at the bottom of the population’s most satisfied 10% and the one at the top of the least satisfied 10%, some countries are certainly more equal than others. Much of western Europe, Israel, Japan and New Zealand have a relatively equal distribution of life satisfaction. Other countries, such as Chile, Slovenia, Portugal and Brazil, display a much greater variance with a wider gap between the most satisfied and least satisfied groups.
Many factors may account for the variation of subjective well-being across the population, but a number of the culprits are fairly predictable. Gender, access to education, employment and income distribution all influence inequality.
OECD (2011), How's Life?: Measuring Well-being, Paris.
©OECD Observer No 287 Q4 2011
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