Are Denmarkians really happier than Americans?

A coalition of researchers from several organizations have created the “World Happiness Report”.  The team drew upon Gallup World Poll data from the the past three years to rank the 156 countries on aspects such as healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices and social support. Their conclusion: the happiest people on Earth reside in Northern Europe, and the happiest country (for 2012) is Denmark.  Here’s a link to the Huffington Post story: Happiest country in 2012.  A link to the report itself: The Report.

You might want to take this with a grain of salt: this could be Socialist propaganda.  After all, one of the researchers is from Columbia University. But, let’s take a closer look at Denmark.  Are they happier than we are?  We can learn a lot by comparing the country pages for Denmark and the U.S. in the CIA World Factbook,

links: Denmark  United States 

Population, 5.5 million vs. 316 million; Life expectancy at birth, very close: Denmark total 78.8, men 76.5, women 81.5, U.S. total 78.6, men 76.2, women 81.2.  So, Denmarkers live 2-4 months longer. 

Religion?  Denmark, 95% Lutheran, 3% other Christian, 2% Muslim.  In other words, mostly Lutheran.  U.S., all over the place, including about 75% Christian of various denominations, 16% unafilliated or none, 0.6% Muslim, 1.7% Jewish, 1.7% Mormon.   Denmarkians might be happier because they all go to the same church.

Population age?  Here’s a difference: Denmark, ages 0-14, 17.2%, U.S. 20%; ages 65 and over, Denmark 18%, U.S. 13.9%.  So, more Americans are younger, more Denmark persons are in the 65 and older category.  In the working age group -- ages 15-64, Denmark 64.8%, U.S. 66.1%.  We have more people of working age, but do they work?  Unemployment rates, Denmark 6%,  U.S. 8.1% (but our figures ignore folks who have left the work force and aren’t trying anymore).  Hmm.  Percent of population below poverty line?  Denmark, 13.4%.  U.S.,  15.1%.  Hmm.

Taxes?  As bad as our taxes are, a Denmarkite pays much more.  From Wikipedia, Taxation in Denmark: They deduct 8% off the gross pay, for everyone rich or poor, to finance entitlements.  This is similar to our FICA tax.  On what’s left, they essentially have 3 income tax brackets: low, medium, and high.  Low is DKK 42,900 (about $7,760 U.S.) or below; medium is 42,900 up to 389,900 Krone, (about $70,500 U.S.), and high is above that.  Some deductions are allowed.  For a typical low income person who makes 150,000 Krone, (about $27,129), the total tax is roughly 25 to 29.7 per cent.  Earnings of 375,000 Krone ($67,820) would pay about 33 to 36%, and a person making 780,000 Krone or more  ($141,000) would pay about 42.9 to 45%.  But, that isn’t all.  They add Church Tax of about .4% to 1.5%; land tax (our property tax) of 7% of property value; PLUS a sales tax, the VAT -- a whopping 25% on most of what they buy.  Not looking quite so happy now.

Health care?  Single payer system.  It’s free, but paid for with the high taxes.  Unlike the U.S., everyone is covered.  The quality is said to be good.  Score one for the Danes, because our health care system is a train wreck in progress as DemocratCare kicks in.  Before, ours was the most expensive in the world, but is also the best.  Some Americans, however, were not insured and had to go to hospital emergency rooms to obtain care that was essentially free – supported by paying patients having to pay higher fees. 

Retirement and disability?  Covered, paid by taxes.

Education: free, including college tuition.  Paid by taxes.   Grade school is mandatory; public schools are free, private schools supported by a voucher system.

Unemployment insurance is good for 2 years.

Personal wealth: compared to ours, the personal wealth per adult in 2012 was estimated by Credit Suisse Research (in U.S. Dollars) as $104,865; in the U.S., it was $262,351.  Danes are only able to save about 40% as much as Americans.  Personal debt per adult was $41,006 in Denmark, $56,860 in the U.S.  Danish debt to wealth ration was about 39.1%, the American ratio was only 21.6%.  This may not prove anything, due to a number of factors, but it seems likely that it’s harder to save and get out of debt for Danes than for Americans.

Other factors?  Trust in government?  Denmarkers trust their government.  They feel it’s looking out for them, and it’s not corrupt.  Do we trust ours?  Not so much.  Also, the Danish welfare system may be breaking down somewhat.  Here’s an article in the Copenhagen Post from 2012: Poverty on the rise throughout Denmark.  The Danish population is aging, which may create problems in the next few years.  Danish pastry is probably superior to ours, but we can buy Danish style pastry here, in most cities.

Conclusion?  Damifino.  I can see where Danes might be happier than Americans.  At least, until tax time rolls around.