The Universal Beer Work Constant

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

It’s Carnaval week/month in Bolivia – the time of year when most beer is drunk. Beer prices have just gone up again, now reaching an outrageous Bs. 9, or more, for a small can of standard beer in supermarkets. This corresponds to USD 3.64 for 1 liter of beer, way more than it costs in rich countries such as Denmark.

If we take into account the low level of wages in Bolivia and the high prices of beer, Bolivia becomes one of the most expensive places in the world for beer lovers. On average, Bolivians have to work about 145 minutes to afford 1 liter of beer (1), whereas in the United States on average they only have to work for 10 minutes (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Minutes of work required to purchase 1 liter of beer in a supermarket

Source: Author’s elaboration based on data from The Economist + Bolivian data (http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/09/daily-chart-13?zid=319&ah=17af09b0281b01505c226b1e574f5cc1)
Source: Author’s elaboration based on data from The Economist + Bolivian data (http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/09/daily-chart-13?zid=319&ah=17af09b0281b01505c226b1e574f5cc1)

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Is Happiness Relevant to Development?

There are differing opinions on what poverty and development are and the role that happiness plays in them (see for example Development Roast’s January article ‘Opinion: Why happiness does not matter for the problem of poverty’). Aside from poverty itself, the world’s view on how to conceptualize and measure development has evolved over time. Factors that years ago were considered completely irrelevant to development are increasingly incorporated into our collective understanding of what it means to advance and the new directions of the concept’s evolution are proving highly interesting.

It is safe to assume that everyone wants to be happy; happiness is often referred to as the ultimate goal of existence at the individual level. However, a global scale evaluation of happiness levels, in relation to nations’ development, is rare since, for some, its natural subjectivity makes it inadequate for the analysis of progress. However, slowly, over time, views are changing. Read More »

Opinion: Why happiness does not matter for the problem of poverty.

As shown in our post “Is there more to life than money? Mapping happiness of people and planet”, several attempts have been made to measure happiness and wellbeing globally. However, consensus proved elusive since different studies brought very diverse results. That is because happiness is a very hard thing to define – if it had a clear, objective definition, our lives would be a lot easier, wouldn’t they? Still, there are several working definitions, and most of them can be grouped in either of the following two categories. On one hand, there is a happiness that relates to one’s satisfaction with their lives. That often involves a feeling of having achieved one’s goals in life, having an option not to work in an extremely degrading job, having good relationships, etc. On the other hand, there is a more emotional happiness. That is much more momentary, it is the “state of mind of feeling good”. According to the latter definition, one’s happiness would be measured by how often, how intensely, and for how long one “feels good”.  Read More »

Graphics: Is there more to life than money? Mapping happiness of people and planet.

It has been long established that national measures of wealth, such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), do not tell the whole story of people’s lives. The search for a more inclusive representation of what is important has been on for a few decades. The Human Development Index (HDI), for example, was first published in 1990 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as a direct response to Amartya Sen’s capability approach. This Nobel Prize winning economist’s groundbreaking insights argued that governments should not only focus on increasing citizens’ monetary wealth, but on ensuring that they are able and capable of achieving their dreams, goals and full potential in the society they live in. The HDI, which was co-created by Sen himself, is a composite measure that takes into account the GDP, life expectancy and education levels in each country. Although it is still by no means perfect, since its conception, critiques of the HDI, namely measurement errors and the important things it still does not capture, have been incrementally addressed and incorporated into later versions. For example, the 2010 HDI was the first to factor in inequalities in the three mesaures between the world’s nations, creating a separate Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI). You can download the full 2011 country rankings here.

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