What’s the unhappiest country?

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Friends of the Earth have released The Happy Planet Index, what they call an:

Innovative new measure that shows the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world. It is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which country by country, people live long and happy lives.

They claim that Vanuatu is the happiest country around, while Zimbabwe brings up the rear. 9 of the 10 happiest countries in the world border the Caribbean Sea – the power of salsa, sol y playa I guess?

I haven’t looked at the report or methodology in detail, but Heavy Lifting has (with regression results included):

The Happiness index suggests that the United States is ranked 150 out of 178, just ahead of the Ivory Coast and just behind Lithuania. This does not pass the smell test and it flies in the face of revealed preference: there are a lot more people trying to come to live in the United States than in any other country in the world. Which is more correct - the revealed happiness of people as evidenced by their relocation or the calculated happiness by the NEF?

Some of the country positions definitely raised my eyebrows.

Update: The BBC asks 'what's so great about living in Vanuatu?' Perhaps because they worship the Duke of Edinburgh, invented bungee jumping, have marvelous weather and pay no income tax. But what about all the poverty and shrinking islands?

Update: Will Wilkinson has another blunt review of the report over at CATO's blog. Thanks to John for the pointer. Will in turn points us to more criticism for the report via Glen Whitman. (On a side note: I subscribe to several blogs where Will is an author, one of which concentrates on happiness and public policy.)

Update: The WSJ's Numbers Guy has more.

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