Compassion Action Index

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This compares the 20 richest nations in the degree to which their policies are compassionate. The policies cover child well-being, health, environment, non-violence, integrity, social justice, civil society, and generosity.

Text of Compassion Action Index

  • 1. Ron Anderson ,University of Minnesota, USA & Foundation for Compassionate Politics [email_address] Presentation at the International Society for Quality of Life Studies Florence, Italy, July 23, 2009


  • Forty-two social Indicators were selected that reflected
    • the degree of suffering in each country
    • or whether the people were acting to reduce suffering either now or in the future.
  • These 42 indicators fall into 9 components

3. *For a total of 42 indicators Nine Components* ( & Sample Indicators ) Socio-Economic Well-Being ( Income Inequality) Child Well-Being ( Often eating with parents) Human Life ( Few homicides) Health ( Low infant Mortality) Non-Violence ( Low arms exports) Integrity & Social Justice ( Human rights protections) Civil Society ( Low television viewing) Environment ( Lowcarbon emissions) Generosity ( Percent volunteering for social services work) 4. *Rich countries with tiny populations were not included. The Twenty Most Affluent* CountriesAustralia Germany Portugal Austria Ireland Spain Belgium Italy Sweden Canada Japan Switzerland Denmark Netherlands United Kingdom Finland New Zealand United States France Norway 5. Steps

  • Locate the statistic (e.g., % or mean) for each country for any given indicator
  • Calculate standard scores (z-scores) by subtracting each county statistic, x, from the mean of all countries, and dividing the result by the standard deviation of all countries
  • Re-standardize each z-score to give each set of scores a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15, just like an intelligence test score
  • After this is done for all the indicators in a component set, e.g., health, then the mean of all non-missing scores is calculated for each country, to produce the component index score.
  • The Compassion Action Index is the mean for each country of all nine component scores.

6. A Glimpse at the Scores for 20 countries & 9 Components 7. The colors of the bars designate the 3 tiers of the countries. 8. Cluster One Cluster Two Cluster Three Belgium Finland Spain (2) Sweden New ZealandJapan (2) DenmarkCanada (3) United States Austria Australia (3) France Germany (2) IrelandUnited Kingdom Italy (2) Switzerland NetherlandsPortugalNorway Note: The numbers in parentheses show the group number of the country based upon their level/tier in the Compassion Action Index. Country Clusters based upon Similarity ofInter-correlations Among Nine Index Components 9. This table lists all 42 Indicators of the Index. It is not intended for reading. Each of the 9 components will beDiscussed one at a time. The sources of theindicators are as follows: 30 official statistics 7 existing org. indices 5 survey questions ------ 42 10. Socio-Economic Well-BeingIndicators*Inverse calculated as: largest data value minus data value **Boldface signifies lower inter-correlations with other indicators. Indicator Data Used Source Low income inequalityInverse* of ratio of income of richest 10% to poorest 10% United Nations Development Program Low adult povertyInverse of percent of adults living below 50% of median income United Nations DevelopmentProgram Low unemployment ** Inverse of adults out of work annualized as of August, 2008:International Labour Office Adequate vacation time Average number of vacation weeks taken by employed adults.Economic Policy Institute,The State of Working America 2008/2009 Government spending for workers as percent of GDP Includes services and retraining Pontusson, J. Inequality and Prosperity, 11. 12. Child Well-BeingIndicatorsIndicator Data Used Source Low child poverty Inverse of percent of children living below poverty line United Nations Development Program Low percent living in single-parent families Low percent of children age 11, 13,15 UNICEF Innnocenti Report Card, 2007 and OECD PISA. Low % of children often eating evening meal with parents Age 15 self-report UNICEF Innnocenti Report Card, 2007 and OECD PISA Few homicide victims Murdered males ages 10-29 World Report on Violence & Health Few births to teens Inverse of births per 1,000 mothers age 15-19 UNICEF Innnocenti Report Card, 2007 13. 14. Human LifeIndicatorsIndicator Data Used Source Low homicide rate Inverse of homicide rate Home Office Statistical Bulletin Low suicide rate Inverse of suicide rate, 2006 OECD,Health at a Glance, 2008 . High life expectancy High life expectancy OECD,Health at a Glance, 2008 . Few road fatalities Inverse of road fatalities per million OECD,Factbook, 2008 . 15. 16. HealthIndicatorsIndicator Data Used Source Low infant mortality Inverse of infant mortality OECD,Health at a Glance, 2008 . Percent with health coverage Percent of population covered by any health insurance OECD,Health at a Glance, 2008 Low incidence of AIDS Inverse of AIDS rate OECD,Health at a Glance, 2008 Low obesity Inverse of percent obese age 15+ OECD,Health at a Glance, 2008 Low pharmaceutical spending per person Inverse of rate of spending for pharmaceutical products OECD,Health at a Glance, 2008 17. 18. Non- ViolenceIndicatorsIndicator Data Used Source Low crime victimization rate Inverse of percent victimized by crime OECD Factbook, 2009 Contributions to peace Index of Contributions to Global Peace Economist Intelligence Unit Low military spending per person Inverse of per capita spending for defense CIA World Factbooks. Low arms exports per person Inverse of arms exports per capita Federation of Amer. Scientists 19. 20. Integrity & JusticeIndicatorsIndicator Data Used Source Corruption-free organizations Inverse of percent of children living below poverty line United Nations Development Program Corporate Social Responsibility Index ofCorporate Social Responsibility Scand. J. of Management25 (2009), 10-22. Human rights protections Inverse of privacy violations by nation Guardian Observer Protection of Citizens from Surveillance Privacy Index Privacy International Low prison populations Inverse of prisoners 100,000 persons OECD Factbook, 2008 21. 22. Civil SocietyIndicatorsIndicator Data Used Source Democracy Index Democracy rating by nation Economist Intelligence Unit, 2008 Turnout in national elections Percent voting in last parliamentary elections International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assist Low television viewing Inverse of adult average weekly time viewing television Freedom of the press Index Freedom House, Global Press Freedom, 2008 Women members of Parliament/Congress Percent of members who are women in 2007 UN Statistics Division 23. 24. According to time use research, Over the past 50 years average television Viewing time has been mostly about the same, except for Canada and the UK, where it steadily rose to 2.5 hours per day. 25. Environment IndicatorsIndicator Data Used Source Low carbon dioxide emissions Inverse of emissions per capita UN Environmental Indicators , 2004 Low water consumption Inverse of water consumption per capita OECD, Factbook,2008 Low municipal Waste Inverse of waste per capita OECD, Factbook,2008 Low energy consumed Inverse of energy consumed per capita OECD, Factbook,2008. 26. 27. GenerosityIndicatorsIndicator Data Used Source Kindness & helpfulness of peers Percent of children age 11, 13, 15, who reported kind peers Health Behavior of School age Children study Volunteering time Percent who reported volunteering for social services work in past year Dekker and Halman Refugees hosted per citizen Refugees hostedper citizen UMHCR Statistical Yearbook, 2007 Government aid to developing countries Index of Aid to Developing Countries Center for Global Development, Commit. To Development Index Government social spending as percent of GDP Government social expenditures in 2003 OECD Factbook , 2008 28.

  • The index takes into account the quality as well as quantity of the aid given. For instance, military aid is weighted much less than unencumbered economic assistance.

29. 30. A Glimpse at the Scores for 20 countries & 9 Components 31.

  • 1.Quality of life differences among affluent societies can not be explained by economics alone. How people, and their politicians, view their responsibilities for generosity, compassion and altruism also determines to what extent all have an opportunity for social well-being.
  • 2.Consistent with Lindert (2004), Pontusso (2005), and Kenworthy (2004) the Nordic countries and Netherlands topped off the compassion action index, but a diversity of counties landed at the top of component indices, including Spain, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, and Belgium. In some areas such as health, human life, and integrity and social justice, the majority of countries clustered around the middle of the distribution. Countries like the USA, where income transfer is an anathema, did very poorly on the Compassion Action Index. Given that American economists like Lindert and Pontusso argue for changes in the direction of the Nordic nations, new reflection and action are needed.


  • 3.It may be surprising to some that the United States falls at or near the bottom of most component indices. One possible explanation is that the quality of life overall in the United States deteriorated over the past two decades under the influence of policies that allowed the welfare of the wealthy to grow while the well-being of the lower income people declined. This casts doubt on the theory that individualism and compassion are fully compatible in a society.
  • 4.Most of the countries clustered around the middle range of the continuum of compassion or non-economic attributes of well-being. That none of the countries scored at an extremely hi