Americans make more money and are slightly more satisfied with their lives, on average, than people in other countries, but here’s the catch: We live slightly shorter lives.
Those are among the findings of an updated study of well-being released Tuesday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which promotes economic and social satisfaction.
The OECD’s Better Life Index was launched in 2011 as a more nuanced way to gauge well-being in its 34 member countries, which include the United States. Besides the usual data points, such as income and education, the Better Life Index looks at things like work-life balance and life satisfaction.
In the updated version released Tuesday, the U.S. ranks well in several traditional and nontraditional areas, especially income, compared with the other 33 countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Average earnings in the U.S. are higher than in many other member countries, although the OECD notes that the gap between rich and poor is relatively high. The U.S. rankes No. 1 in average household wealth, at $102,000. Only Switzerland comes close, with average household wealth of about $95,000.
The U.S. also gets high marks for housing. That ranking looks not just at the quality of housing – including rooms per person and access to indoor plumbing – but also relative cost. On average, Americans spend about 20 percent of their disposable income on housing, a little bit less than the 22 percent average, the index finds.
The United States also ranks above average in life satisfaction, with 76 percent of people reporting having more positive than negative experiences in an average day. That compares to 72 percent overall in the 34 countries.
But plenty of countries report higher levels of life satisfaction, including Denmark, Norway and Switzerland.
It might not be a surprise that we do less well in terms of work-life balance. People in most countries report a better balance between career and personal lives than we achieve, with Denmark, Belgium and Spain leading the way. Mexico, Turkey and Japan rank lower than the U.S.
In addition, the OECD reports that the average life expectancy in the United States is just under 79 years, lower than the OECD average of 80 years.