Perception of fairness impacts national happiness

Happiness Report

The United States has one of the highest per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) in the world, ranked eighth by the World Bank. Certainly it has the highest score among countries with a sizable population.

Yet the U.S. comes in at 15th in the World Happiness Report. GDP is part of happiness in this report, but so are measures of social support, health, personal freedom, generosity, and perceptions of corruption.

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The power of promotion: Poverty simulations

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Earlier this year, actress Gwyneth Paltrow tried living on food assistance for a week. She could some flack for her experiment, including in this Washington Post blog. It’s easy to chide the famous and wealthy for something like this. After all, Paltrow also caught flack for offering $90 basic white t-shirts on her lifestyle web site. (But that was a couple years ago, and I see that her prices have come down some recently.)

I’ll give Gwyneth points for trying firsthand to understand the problems of poverty and using her vast promotional power to spread awareness. As the Washington Post blog points out, unless you’re actually living in poverty today, it’s very had to grasp how people survive.

The blog offers a great suggestion for trying, though: participating in a poverty simulation.

In this version of a role-playing game, you’re dealt a hand of resources such as an income, a working car, a savings account. You’re also dealt obligations such as rent and food and childcare and utility bills. Each round, you draw from a list of events, some good and some bad: avoid the flu, experience car trouble, get laid off. The point is to experience trade-offs that you otherwise may never encounter.

I took part in a simulation as part of a community-organizing event about 10 years ago. Even in the context of a simulation, it’s a blow to lose your car because you don’t have the savings to repair it. Without a car, you can’t get your kid to affordable daycare in time to also make it to work each day. What will you do?

Promotion in the public and social spheres encompasses education as well as solicitation. I would hope that all elected officials and leaders of non-profits and NGOs have a chance to participate in a poverty simulation. We can always use more empathy when approaching questions of distribution and fairness in our communities.

If you’re in the position to do so, maybe you could offer your own poverty simulation. The link above offers materials you need to conduct your workshop.

(Art obtained from Flickr through Creative Commons license.)

 

Economic equality versus equality of opportunity: a fish tale

fishing

I’m sure you’re heard the aphorism about giving a hungry man a fish versus teaching him to fish. The first approach lets him eat for a day, the second for a lifetime. And it’s true enough, as far as it goes. But what if you allow one man to cast a line, another to cast a net, and a third to own a trawler?

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Society needs great marketers

“If you’re the kind of person who tends to succeed in what you start, changing what you start could be the most extraordinary thing you do.”

This statement pokes me in a tender spot. I often ask myself if there’s not something better I should be doing with my time and talents.

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Unfairness creates anti-social behavior in monkeys

In an early post about fairness on this blog, we saw what happened when researchers treated Capuchin monkeys unfairly by paying them unequally for the same work. The monkeys rebelled, throwing their pay back at the researchers. But what happens if monkeys are unfair to one another?

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Got $4000? You’re rich, by global standards

Infographic: 0.7% Of The World's Population Control 41% Of Its Wealth | Statista

Ponder these economic inequality stats: “According to Crédit Suisse, people with a net worth of over $1 million represent just 0.7 percent of the planet’s population, but they control 41 percent of its wealth. 69 percent of the world’s population have a net worth of under $10,000 – they account for a mere 3 percent of global wealth. Meanwhile, 23 percent fall into the $10,000-$100,000 bracket and they control 14 percent of worldwide wealth.”

To be counted among the wealthiest half of the world’s citizens, you require a personal net worth of $3,650.

You can find this and other statistics at Statista, one of the sources on my list of free tools for marketers.

On Fairness: our estimates, ideals, and reality

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Most Americans have little idea about the true inequality of our economy. They think it’s fairer than it is, they think it should be fairer than it is, but then aren’t yet ready to vote for fairness

That’s the news from a recent Slate article discussing studies in perception of economic inequality.

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