Are Canadians still winning the birth lottery?
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a research company related to The Economist magazine, the answer is yes, and no.
In its where-to-be-born index for 2013, the researchers ranked Canadian babies ninth luckiest out of 80 countries they examined.
When the EIU first put out a ranking in 1988, Canada was fifth.
The ranking uses both subjective and objective measures to evaluate citizens prospects in terms of wealth, health and trust in public institutions. Subjective data was taken from life-satisfaction surveys (how happy people say they are) from Gallup (2006).
In 1988 it also included qualitative indexes the EIU called its “philistine factor” and its “yawn index.”
The philistine factor was an evaluation of how culturally rich a country is, while the yawn index attempted to discern how boring a country is, maybe despite all its other redeeming features.
Canada, perhaps predictably, was given a low score on these although they did give us bonus points for scenic beauty.
The 2013 version attempts to be slightly more scientific dovetailing the subjective piece with objective economic and socio-political indicators and projecting to 2030 when children born in 2013 will have reached adulthood.
Economic and socio-political indicators used in the study include GDP per capita, average income, life expectancy at birth, quality of family life, human rights, job security, climate, physical security (based on crime and/or terrorism rates), and gender equality (based on share of seats in elected government institutions).
Critics of the study point out that even the objective measures can be somewhat subjective.
For example, quality of family life is based primarily on divorce rates, but experts are divided on whether a high divorce rate is a positive or negative social indicator. Divorce rates tend to be higher in wealthy countries where there is more equality between men and women, which might indicate more people have the opportunity to get out of bad relationships.
Feminists eschew the relatively high rankings of countries such as United Arab Emirates (18) and Kuwait (22) where, they say, the experience of being born male is vastly better than being born female.
Other detractors accuse the researchers of analytical bias.
The authors of the study note “over several decades there has been only a very modest upward trend in average life satisfaction scores in developed nations, whereas average income has grown substantially.” They attribute this apparent disconnect to the breakdown of traditional institutions although there is no hard evidence to that effect, critics say.