Guyanese life satisfaction at 70.7% – Latin American survey

-perceived government corruption seen as having little impact

A 2012 survey for the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) found that Guyanese have a life satisfaction level of 70.7% – higher than Trinidad and Jamaica – and a research paper on the findings said that while corruption victims report lower levels of happiness there was no evidence that perceiving a government as corrupt had an impact on the figure.

Guyana – ranked 18th out of 24 countries – and several other Caricom countries featured in this LAPOP survey and a series of earlier ones. The life satisfaction of Guyanese was ahead of Trinidad and Tobago at 68.2%, Jamaica at 63.4%, Suriname at 63.2% and Haiti, bottom of the table at 54.8%. Guyana was however behind Belize which registered 72.3%.

Top of the table was Costa Rica and Panama at 85.7% while Venezuela was third at 85.1% and Brazil was sixth with 83.9%. Other countries in the survey were Colombia, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Mexico, Honduras, Argentina, El Salvador, Uruguay, Chile, Peru and Bolivia.

The research paper by Matthew M. Singer of the University of Connecticut in AmericasBarometer Insights: 2013  focused on the question  of the impact of corruption on the satisfaction of citizens. The data he worked on had been culled from the 2012 round of surveys in which 38,631 respondents in the 24 countries were asked the question: In general how satisfied are you with your life? Would you say that you are…(1) Very satisfied (2) Somewhat satisfied (3) Somewhat dissatisfied (4) Very dissatisfied.

He found that while satisfaction levels are lowest in Haiti, which is also the most impoverished country in the hemisphere, the country differences did not correspond closely with national income.  He pointed out that Chile, Uruguay and Trinidad, the three countries with the largest per capita GDP in Latin America and the Caribbean were all in the bottom half of the satisfaction rankings.

Noting that recent scholarship suggests that happiness is linked to good governance, Singer set about assessing the various possibilities by adding measures of bad governance to the baseline model of life satisfaction along with perceived levels of government corruption.

His findings were that while corruption victims experienced a drop in life satisfaction  there is less evidence that satisfaction with life is lower for persons who perceive corruption within government but have not been targeted for a bribe.  Singer said that he also analyzed whether happiness was tied with levels of corruption  reported in the World Bank’s governance indicators or by Transparency International. Guyana has scored badly on the Transparency International index.

Singer said that he found no significant correlations. “In contrast to much of the previous work on other regions, I find little evidence that high levels of perceived corruption have a significant effect on how citizens of the Americas perceive their own lives”.  He contended that the negative effect of corruption on satisfaction is moved by “personal experiences, such that this relationship is limited to bribe extortion victims”.

Another key finding from his assessment is that corruption’s effect on happiness is less than the effect of economics or a general sense of insecurity. “The effects of wealth and changes in income are substantially larger than is the effect of being targeted for a bribe. While the effects of crime victimization and corruption victimization are roughly equal in magnitude, both are dwarfed by the effect of living in an area that is unsafe”.

He concluded by saying that while overall levels of perceived corruption do not have a strong negative influence on citizen happiness, other data show that citizens who perceive that their government is corrupt “tend to be less supportive of democratic institutions, less likely to be satisfied with the overall state of democracy in the country, and more likely to tolerate political activities by those looking to enact regime change”.

The LAPOP surveys are aided by USAID and Vanderbilt University.

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