by Jon Clifton and Lymari Morales
Feb 2, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Wellbeing in Egypt and Tunisia decreased significantly over the past few years, even as GDP increased. In Egypt, where demonstrations have prompted President Hosni Mubarak to give up power after elections this fall, the percentage of people “thriving” fell by 18 percentage points since 2005. In Tunisia, where mass protests toppled the country’s government last month, the percentage of people Gallup classifies as thriving fell 10 points since 2008.
Gallup classifies respondents worldwide as “thriving,” “suffering,” or “struggling” based on how they rate their current and future lives on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving ladder scale, with steps numbered from 0 to 10. The declining percentage of those in Egypt and Tunisia who rate their lives well enough to be considered thriving reveals that these populations, as a whole, have become increasingly negative about their lives over the past few years.
In Egypt, all income groups have seen wellbeing decline significantly since 2005, with only the richest 20% of the population trending positively since 2009. In Tunisia, wellbeing for all groups has declined since 2008 at similar rates.
As a result of these declines, wellbeing in these countries now ranks among the worst in the Middle East and North Africa region, on par with Libya, Palestinian Territories, Iraq, Yemen, and Morocco. When more people were thriving in Egypt and Tunisia in past years, their wellbeing ranked toward the higher end for the region. Thus, it is important to consider the current state of wellbeing in each country as well as the trend and trajectory.
The data underscore how traditional economic metrics can paint an incomplete picture of life in a given country. Over the same period that wellbeing decreased in Egypt and Tunisia, GDP increased. This is particularly noteworthy because previous Gallup research, by Angus Deaton, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, and Gallup researchers, has found wellbeing to be highly correlated with GDP per capita.
Gallup’s global wellbeing metrics make clear that leaders cannot assume that the lives of those in their countries would improve in tandem with rising GDP. The traditional GDP gains seen in Tunisia and Egypt alongside declines in wellbeing and subsequent political instability are evidence of this. Together, the data strongly suggest leaders need to follow much more than GDP to effectively track and lead the progress of their nation.