Quality of life around the developed world
June 25, 2014 6:00 PM   Subscribe

The OECD has for a long time offered up measures of human wellbeing across a range of indices. Now they've taken the resolution a step further, providing measures of well being at a regional level for 300 regions/provinces/states across the developed world. How does your neck of the woods fare? What other part of the world is comparable to where you live? Allow your location and see.
posted by wilful (44 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

Alabama has a 0.3 out of 10 for safety. Did the Second Civil War break out while I was in the john?
posted by Rhaomi at 6:09 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]

London gets 10/10 for access to services, putting it second in the UK. Um....
posted by Devonian at 6:15 PM on June 25

Victoria gets 10/10 for "Civic Engagement". This surprised me, but it seems it's just talking about compulsory voting, so I suppose Australia has that one in the bag.
posted by pompomtom at 6:21 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]

New York is the entire state? Seems like a wasted opportunity.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:28 PM on June 25

So it looks like kvetching about the compilation of stats is universal! Yay for humanity.
posted by pompomtom at 6:33 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]

Jeolla Province is comparable to Tel Aviv, East Netherlands, and Lombardy and Carinthia in Austria. Which actually doesn't tell me much, because I've never been to any of those places (except a train through Lombardy).

0 out of 10 points on Environment seems a little harsh, though. Jeollanam-do is pretty clean and green, at least by Korean standards. And I say that with the biggest integrated steel mill in the world about 2 km from where I sit.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:37 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]

Huh. So Iowa is pretty good on everything except health. We're in the bottom 50% on health. We're in the top 50% on everything else and in the top 10% on jobs, income and education. I feel like some of those indicators are a little arbitrary, though. We've got ok access to broadband, but if you measured access to services by how long you had to travel to get to a doctor or dentist, I bet we wouldn't look so great. And if you looked at access to public transit, we'd be a disaster.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:44 PM on June 25

New Mexico somehow has a 0.0 out of 10 for safety. How am I even still alive?
posted by wanderingmind at 7:04 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]

DC gets a 9.1 for education? That must mean that they measured people with college and post graduate degrees and IN NO WAY took into account the actual educational experiences of children in schools here. Income, too -- 10 out of 10? It's like they only surveyed one quadrant.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:11 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]

Oh, except for our 0.0 in safety where all of a sudden they realized "oh shit! There are a ton of other neighborhoods across the river!"
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:12 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]

Alabama has a 0.3 out of 10 for safety. Did the Second Civil War break out while I was in the john?

The US in general ranks 33 out of 34 for safety among OECD countries.
posted by threeants at 7:13 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]

Income is income per capita (according to the user guide), not median. A place in which most people are reasonably comfortable could score lower than a place with most people very poor and a handful obscenely wealthy. In other words, the income measure can easily conflate income and inequality. That's probably what's happening in DC.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:19 PM on June 25

Alberta scores WAAAAY higher on environment than I'd have expected. Maybe I'm too critical of my government?

We suck at civic engagement (which doesn't surprise me a huge amount, though I'd be curious to dig deeper and look at that on the basis of an individual cities).

And we're amazing at access to services: 10/10 (which is somehow a decrease from the 2006 rankings?).
posted by asnider at 7:25 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]

Maryland gets a 0.0 in safety because of its murder rate. Likely largely the murder rate in Baltimore, and specifically in West Bmore which is a casualty of the drug war. Maryland gets a 9.2 in education because of its rich suburban schools. Ignoring the schools in West Bmore torn apart by the drug war (and redlining). It's strange to see how outliers play in either direction.
posted by codacorolla at 7:49 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]

I'm genuinely curious how the Northern Territory was rated higher than Victoria on 'Access to Services', including a higher 'Households with Broadband Access' figure. I'm guessing many of the places Territory residents are living have not been categorised as 'households'.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:54 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]

Actually, it looks like their metric for education is post-secondary education in the workforce, which isn't surprising given that Maryland's suburbs act as the bedroom communities for DC. So that takes schools in the locality out of the equation altogether. Seems like a weird measure to label as "education".
posted by codacorolla at 7:55 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]

Minnesota does well on all counts. I guess there's no "trying to convince your relatives you're not crazy for living where you do" score.
posted by miyabo at 7:55 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]

DC gets a 9.1 for education?
Education measures the percentage of the workforce with a high-school diploma (or the local equivalent.) It doesn't measure whether it's possible to get a high school diploma without being functionally educated, and it doesn't measure whether the workforce is being imported from places with better schools.

Having said that, I think with all those caveats in mind, Iowa still looks pretty good. We actually have really low income inequality by American standards, and the schools really are pretty good. I think the environment stat is probably off, though, because it only measures air pollution, and agricultural states would probably fare worse if you took into account stuff that gets into the soil and water.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:00 PM on June 25

This website doesn't seem to know that I am white and middle class. It is giving me scores that apply to everyone!
posted by srboisvert at 8:06 PM on June 25 [6 favorites]

These metrics are kind of silly and reductive.
posted by empath at 8:12 PM on June 25

Aggregate metrics are reductive by nature. Whether that seems silly depends on how you read them.
posted by ftm at 8:19 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]

A lot of economists basically just study GDP, and how to increase it. The people trying to create overall quality of life scores are branching out from that. You have to admit it's definitely less reductive than studying GDP only.
posted by miyabo at 8:30 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]

These metrics are kind of silly and reductive.

Yeah, I guess this is my real point; this stuff is interesting and I think it's awesome that we are trying to create quality of life scores, but there's clearly still a lot of work that needs to go into this. It'll be exciting when that happens but right now it just feels kind of insulting to a lot of people's lived experiences in these cities, at least to me.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:35 PM on June 25

I think the safety rating is particularly absurd. There's no way that DC is as bad as Juarez, Mexico.
posted by empath at 8:36 PM on June 25

I'm genuinely curious how the Northern Territory was rated higher than Victoria on 'Access to Services'

Services in NT: police, hospitals, roads.
Services in Victoria: baristas, croupiers, bugaboo repair shops.
posted by pompomtom at 8:50 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]

Prince Edward Island, which everyone I know under 30 couldn't wait to leave, beats my new home of California on every single score except income. Not a bad showing for a sand bar.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:00 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]

BC education ranks #11 in the OECD & #1 in Canada while simultaneously having the 2nd-lowest per capita student funding in Canada, a government that has thrice lost court challenges to its unfair teacher contract negotiations, is currently in the midst of a full-province teacher's strike, and has the highest child poverty rate in Canada (hungry students don't learn)?

This survey is pure bullshit, IMO.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:14 PM on June 25

Apparently BC's 1.8 murders per 100K puts us in the bottom 44% for safety, but #4 in Canada.

posted by five fresh fish at 11:18 PM on June 25

This survey is pure bullshit, IMO.

It isn't as long as you remember to substitute "Labour force with at least secondary education" for education, "Households Broadband access" for services and "Piano sales figures" for culture.
OK, I made the last one up. They didn't cover culture.
posted by hat_eater at 11:33 PM on June 25

How does Germany score so badly on environment while using solar for half it's power generation (via), transporting people via electric trains, etc.? Also, income should take into account the cost-of-living and income distribution, maybe just use the Gini coefficient.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:39 PM on June 25

How does Germany score so badly on environment while using solar for half it's power generation

Well, that was for one hour on a hot public holiday when everyone was outside. Germany burns a lot of coal and fossil fuels. Although I agree that the environment score is weird, since they only considered air pollution levels. If they considered water quality and recycling figures as well, I suspect that the ranking would be quite higher.
posted by cmonkey at 12:10 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]

It really helps if you treat the labels as aliases for the metrics that are being displayed.

I personally think this data viz is absolutely brilliant. It is an excellent way to present a huge amount of info. It is a massive undertaking just to see what you see there, but with a little bit more work those broad metrics could be filled out with subdivisions, endlessly drilling down so that you can toggle features that make up the metric.

One of the biggest problems with adding more metrics under each label is that data aren't available for each region, and even if they were, they are likely not comparable. It's amazing this thing is as good as it is, given just those two issues alone. Regardless, the presentation is stellar.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:25 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Minnesota does well on all counts. I guess there's no "trying to convince your relatives you're not crazy for living where you do" score.

Minnesota (home, in my heart of hearts) and California (home, in my reality of realities) were the first two I checked. Whenever I talk about how much I loved living in the Twin Cities, people's reactions seem to run the gamut from mildly skeptical to totally dismissive (sometimes accompanied by laughter), but this feels like a tiny vindication of sorts.

I know these metrics are totally reductive; I just have a lot of love for Minnesota.
posted by Austenite at 1:13 AM on June 26

Yeah, across the board the E.U. allows fewer contaminants in drinking water than the U.S. And the U.S. food libel laws likely prevent public discussion of various contaminants in drinking water.

Also, there is no measure for food safety here. American beef contains ammonia, well except for the grass fed stuff, ditto other foods. MRSA is vastly more prevalent in the U.S. U.S. food libel laws actually prevent testing for contamination. etc. etc.

Air quality appears better in the U.S. overall but that's presumably due to population density so not sure you benefit unless you live in the sticks. And doesn't the U.S. prevent heavily some polluted regions like L.A. from setting their own tougher standards?
posted by jeffburdges at 3:09 AM on June 26

Minnesota is the same as Greater London?
posted by ZeusHumms at 5:42 AM on June 26

I think I'll join the pile-on, I'm not too impressed with this reductive survey. I don't think "civic engagement" is synonymous with "voter turnout." I also think that "environment" is somewhat more complex than air quality.
This website tells me that Northwest England is safer than Vermont. Having lived in both places, I beg to differ. Vermont has a higher murder rate than Northwest England, mainly because there are about 600,000 people in the entire state. The statistics say the rate is higher, but the reality is that there are far fewer people around trying to kill you (or just headbutt you for no particular reason).
posted by crazylegs at 5:52 AM on June 26

9.4 in Safety!

Goodbye, Shottingham! We only have 1 murder per 100,000 people!

What's that?

Bodies of elderly couple found buried in garden after 15 years?

posted by Katemonkey at 6:14 AM on June 26

Wait...Massachusetts is 18th out of 51 US Regions in Education?? Behind Wyoming and Montana?? Yeah, something is not right here.
posted by briank at 7:41 AM on June 26

Missouri gets a 0.1 safety rating?

Don't get me wrong...I've had some violent and dangerous encounters there...but...the freaking Congo would have to get like a -100 or something. Of course they're figuring in St. Louis and KC and the deepest depths of the Ozarks... It's an average... But it shows what a crude tool this is.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:45 AM on June 26

Of course they're figuring in St. Louis and KC and the deepest depths of the Ozarks... It's an average... But it shows what a crude tool this is.

Most of St. Louis is right there near that same average for the state. It's just within the St. Louis city limits itself that's terrible.

Homicide rate for the city: 35.5 / 100k
Homicide rate for the greater St. Louis area: 7.3
US overall: 5.9

35.5 actually is about where Congo and Burundi are. (Not as bad as Ecuador, which is 61.1.)
posted by Foosnark at 9:26 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]

Indexes are usually composites of numerous indicators. Indicators are data points that are tracked and applied to larger, uncrackable concepts or goals. (e.g. the goal might be to improve civic engagement, and an indicator for that is voter turnout).

In this web page, they say "Indicators:" but only list a single indicator. Are these indexes, made up of multiple indicators, or are they just a single indicator? It is unclear.
posted by rebent at 9:43 AM on June 26

my mistake, for some of them there are multiple indicators, for others just the single indicator.
posted by rebent at 9:45 AM on June 26

Another web novelty where the enthusiasm for the visual presentation came first, then they went looking around for convenient numbers to plug into it without any particular scientific rigor. Don't we have about one of these a week?
posted by koebelin at 3:18 AM on June 27

koebelin, this is not some web dev with a cool tool slapping data together. This is a large organization (2014 budget: 357m Euros).

My guess is that the people in charge of this project never heard or understood the type of objections that are being leveled against it by mefights. Instead, they sat through many, many 2-hour meetings where "indicators" was mentioned again and again, and much of the time was devoted to ensuring everyone was committed to indicators. But when it came to actually defining them, an email from one consultant was translated by a different consultant and a deadline was approaching and a boss made a judgement call and..... this is what we're left with. A steaming pile.

So I guess my criticism of your criticism is that, dag yo, wouldn't it be great if it was as disingenuous as you suggest. But the (assumed) fact that this effort was in good faith and core to mission and wholly agreed upon, and still falls so short, is all the more despicable, I think.
posted by rebent at 6:37 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]

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