The People’s Choice: Australia

BY Paul Solman  July 22, 2011 at 1:04 PM EDT

Making Sense

Once again, the Making Sen$e audience has spoken. Once again, the results are lopsided. Recently, we polled you on my hat(s): “great” or “goofy”? You accentuated the positive, latched onto the affirmative, and chose “great” over “goofy” by a margin of nearly 7-1.

We followed up with a poll a touch more significant: Given a set of criteria developed by the 34-country OECD, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in what country would you prefer to live? Once again, the results are unequivocal, which suggests that our readership is somewhat less polarized than, say, the United States as a whole.

Here are the results:

FIRST

  1. Australia- 33

  2. Canada – 31

  3. Tie: New Zealand and Scandinavia- 2

  4. Tie: U.S. and Sweden- 1

SECOND

  1. Canada- 22

  2. Sweden- 11

  3. Australia- 10

  4. Tie: Austria, New Zealand and Denmark- 1

THIRD

  1. Sweden-21

  2. New Zealand- 7

  3. Tie: Canada and Australia- 5

  4. Tie: Norway and Finland- 2

  5. Denmark- 1

FOURTH

  1. New Zealand- 7

  2. Tie: Sweden and Norway- 2

  3. Tie: Denmark, Australia and Canada- 1

FIFTH

  1. Tie: Canada, US, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland- 1

SIXTH

  1. Denmark- 1

Note: First, Second, Third etc. correspond to the countries users reported as their top results from the OECD Better Life Index.

And here is your arguably unsettling response, given that the great majority of you are, we presume, from the United States. Fact is, though, that our own country finished in a tie for fifth with less than two percent of the vote. The winner: Australia, with 47 percent, just beating out Canada: 44 percent

When Making Sen$e reporter/producer Elizabeth Shell interviewed the OECD’s Anthony Gooch, he pointed out that “every one of the [11] dimensions is based on objective data, except for life satisfaction. All the data that underpins the index is OECD data. We didn’t go down the GDP per capita route, for example, on income. We made a conscious choice to go for household income.”

The OECD poll lets you investigate the determinants of each category. The health ranking of a country, for instance, is based on longevity and self-reported health status.

“What we’re looking at is actually: where are people healthy?” says the OECD’s Gooch, “not where they’re spending a lot of money on their health care system. The fact that you spend a hell of a lot of money on health is no determinant of your performance as a country overall in terms of being healthy.”

What sense does Gooch make of the Making Sen$e results?

“It certainly suggests consistency. For those two to come consistently out at that level, they’ve not attributed so much importance to income and governance. We did a little focus group at the beginning and we asked: Which of the eleven would you give most importance to? And most of the people said ‘life satisfaction.’ We asked them a second question: What do you think other people will make their number one pick? They said that others would make their number one pick ‘income’.”

This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions _Follow Paul on Twitter._