Lazy, Happy Americans

by Jonah Shepp


Perusing the latest World Values Survey, Christopher Ingraham highlights some of the findings about how Americans compare to the rest of the world. One shocker:

While we have a reputation for being a country of workaholics, we actually rank the importance of work quite low (36 percent) compared to other countries. Ghanians, Filipinos and Ecuadorians are the biggest workaholics, while again the Dutch are at the bottom of the list. The most important thing, according to Americans? Family. Sure, we may not fully trust that one sketchy uncle, but we love him anyway.

Charles Kenny points to another somewhat surprising finding: most Americans say they are happy:

Americans still report themselves happy, if not quite as much as in the past. The proportion reporting that they are either very happy or rather happy was 91 percent in 1981, climbed to 93 percent in 1999, and fell back to 89 percent in 2011.  In some ways, this suggests remarkable resilience in the face of stagnant incomes and an unemployment rate that almost doubled between the second and third surveys. Unemployment and the related uncertainty has a strong relationship with lower reported wellbeing across the rich world.

On the whole, the global average for people living in surveyed countries has risen. Among the global sample whose data goes back to the early 1980s, the proportion saying they are rather happy or very happy climbed from 71 percent to 84 percent. In the larger sample using data from the early 2000s, the global average reporting happiness climbed from 75 percent to 83 percent.

Zach Beauchamp notices that Germany, Japan, Ukraine, and Taiwan stand out for their citizens’ relative lack of pride, with fewer than 70 percent saying they were proud of their country and fewer than 30 percent saying they were very proud:

Each of those four countries where pride was unusually low has something interesting to it. For Germany and Japan, it suggests that the post-World War II hangups about nationalism may have not quite gone away. Since their defeats, both countries have developed a much more complicated relationship with national pride — in some ways, German and Japanese nationalism run amok were responsible for the whole thing. This sense of national guilt, or at least a wariness of too much national pride, might be making it harder for German and Japanese folk to feel immense amounts of national pride.

In Ukraine, the issue may be the country’s ethno-linguistic divides. … Then there’s Taiwan, whose results are almost certainly about tension with mainland China. 20 percent of Taiwanese outright favor reunification with China, and 43.5 percent of Taiwanese also identify as Chinese (“Zhongguo ren,” which could mean Taiwanese, mainland Chinese, or both). This complicated relationship with the People’s Republic probably explains why Taiwanese people aren’t quite as proud of their country as other peoples are.