They Can’t All Be Happier Than Us

Sometimes I wonder how I can simply explain why I’m so interested in Latin America; it’s people, language, culture, and politics. The folks* at the New Economics Foundation have a report out, which ostensibly tries to measure happiness around the world. Latin American countries wipe the floor with the competition.

Costa Rica takes the top spot. Eight of the top ten are Latin America states. All them beat out the United States (Paraguay comes in last for Latin America at the 99th spot; the U.S. is ranked 114th). Bolivia comes in at 47th.

Even though Bolivia ranks higher in “happiness” than the U.S., that does not reflect the true poverty that plagues this country. In PPP (purchasing power parity) terms, Bolivia’s GDP was $22.33 billion (est. 2004.) The most profitable U.S. corporation, Exxon Mobil, made a little bit more, $25.3 billion, in profits in 2004. I don’t doubt that most Bolivians would trade their spot in happiness rankings for some of the prosperity you find the U.S.

None the less, anecdotally I can say that I’ve found the people in my travels to be warm, kind, and yes, happy. And the people are one of the things that keeps me coming back down here.

* I realize that the people are the New Economics Foundation are a bunch of tree-huggin hippies. They measure environmental footprint as part of their evaluation of happiness, which really hurts the U.S.


Mark Easton of BBC analyzes why rich countries did so poorly and why Latin America did so well in this report.

Update II:

I was talking to my co-worker (a professor of law here in Cochabamba) and he jokingly said, “Of course we’re happier than the U.S. We only worry about eating and sleeping enough. We don’t really care about things like development and being a world power.”

They Can’t All Be Happier Than Us