Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Happiest Places

The November issue of National Geographic's cover story is about the happiest places in the world. There is a two page spread showing happiness measures for all countries where data is available.
The map* uses a type of Chernoff face to show three variables; size reflects overall satisfaction with life, the degree of smiling shows people's daily happiness and the color represents health. Some patterns that emerge are that countries in North America and northern Europe have a high degree of happiness but only moderate health. Many countries in Central and South America have better health scores but slightly lower overall satisfaction with life (the faces are a bit smaller.) Eastern Europe and central Asia and much of Africa (but not all) score poorly in all categories.

*this is more of a cartogram-like chart than a map and the not all countries fit into their ideal locations so some are hard to find.

Clearly much is this is subjective on many levels and subject to debate. What I find more dubious is their assessment of urban areas within the United States. Here's a detail from the map of the most happy metropolitan areas.
These places are mostly either college towns or places that are unaffordable to anyone of a modest income (or both)-this creates a sense of exclusivity and males me wonder if these surveys show an accurate cross section of the population.

The magazine also has some interactive graphics showing the metropolitan areas-here is a screen shot from a chart of happiness. Although most of the highest ranked places are expensive, there are exceptions such as Des Moines.
There is also a Chernoff face treatment for the 50 states, though this one only measures one variable-the well being score.

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