I was correctly chided for my earlier post on the connection between inequality and happiness, and thanks for the comments. My thinking was also clarified by hearing Wilkinson deliver a fabulous lecture to the Ottawa Economics Association this week.
Wilkinson and Pickett’s central argument is that the connection between income inequality and a wide range of measures of well-being – from health to fear of crime – runs through stress and anxiety. People in more equal and solidaristic societies enjoy better outcomes, and might also be expected to be more satisfied with their lives. Objective and subjective well being should overlap to a considerable degree.
I find on a cursory examination that this indeed seems to be broadly true for Canada.
The Tables below present data on income inequality and on happiness by province. The former series – taken from HRSDC social indicators – is the ratio of the top to bottom quintile of after tax family income. Provinces are ranked from most to least equal. The latter – taken from the recent CSLS study – is the percentage of persons saying they are very satisfied or satisfied with their lives.
The second Table shows that the order of provinces ranked from most to least equal corresponds fairly closely with the order of provinces ranked from most to least happy. It is notable that the two pole provinces are the same – PEI and Newfoundland are the most equal and the most happy – while Ontario and BC are the least equal and the least happy.
Some enterprising person with more time and methodological talent than I should use the HRSDC social indicators to do Wilkinson and Pickett style gradients for the Canadian provinces linking income inequality to health, crime and other outcomes.