Abstract Chapter 5 Introductory text to Collection Distributional Findings on Happiness in Nations


This chapter considered whether average happiness in nations is a valid indicator of the livability of these nations. Two kinds of validity tests were performed: First, global tests for concurrent and congruent validity. Second, several specific checks of some common objections against the use of happiness for this purpose.

The global tests for congruent validity showed that average happiness in nations correspond with healthiness, though not with incidence of suicide. These two alternative ‘output’ indicators of livability explain together 37% of the variance in happiness. The test for concurrent validity showed a strong relationship with quality of crucial living conditions in the country. Happiness is highest in the countries that provide most material comfort, social equality, political freedom and access to knowledge. Together these input indicators explain 77% of the variance in average happiness.

Various specific validity tests did not expose happiness either. The observed differences in average happiness between nations do not seem to result from cultural bias in its measurement. It is also unlikely that they result to a great extend from cultural variation in outlook on life.

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