Friday, June 29, 2012

What is the happiest day of the week?

Life can be tough at the start of the week. You've had lots of fun over the weekend, but now it's time to wake up early, and drag yourself to work or school. But is it really that bad? Surely after more than 10 years of schooling, you should get used to it, and adapt psychologically. As I mentioned in this post, the adaptation theory suggests that happiness levels revert back to some constant level over time. Hence, do people get happier as the weekend approaches, or have they adapted and are unfazed by the work-weekend cycle?x

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

If money can't buy happiness, what can?

In an earlier post about economics and ministerial salaries, I said that at the end of the day economics is about happiness. In fact, thousands of academic papers have been published on the subject. Furthermore, this isn't something just for the academics - the Bhutan government has a Gross National Happiness index which is also being replicated by some groups in the US.

Happiness is important stuff, then, and everyone should have some inkling of the subject, if only for water cooler ammoA good place to start is "Happiness, Economics, and Public Policy": it gives a concise summary of findings, balanced with problems like "why measuring happiness is tricky". If you have the time, read the file in it's entirety, but I suspect most would just be interested what affect happiness (chapter 3). Here's a summary.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Are motorists in Singapore becoming more careless?

In the middle of May, a man driving a Ferrari ran a red light and drove straight into a cab, leaving himself and 2 others dead. Video footage from an adjacent car surfaced on the internet, and many viewers were horrified by the speed and recklessness of the Ferrari driver. One viewer felt that the accident "actually makes me upset and feel sick to my stomach". The picture below, taken from the video footage, shows just how fast the man was driving (the red blur moving into a cab on the right):

Source: Channel NewsAsia

Given that road accidents increased over 20% from about 7,100 in 2001 to 8,600 in 2010, is this incident symptomatic of greater carelessness on the part of motorists?

Friday, June 15, 2012

The shrinking Singapore household

In November 2011, HDB chief executive Cheong Koon Hean stated that while HDB flats have become smaller in size, the average household size has likewise fallen. As a result, the amount of space enjoyed by each person has increased, and each individual is better off despite living in smaller homes. This got me curious - while it comes to no surprise that households today are shrinking, does this trend differ across house sizes?

Are commuters happy about public transport?

Commuters can be quite vocal about public transport in Singapore. For example, Occupy Bishan MRT, a Facebook group, was set up for people to discuss (or mostly complain about) public transport issues.

While such groups help people let off some steam, they can also feedback to official channels through the Land Transport Authority's annual Public Transportation Customer Survey. The survey asks commuters if they were satisfied with eight bus and train attributes, a simple “yes” or “no” question.

The survey is hence a barometer of satisfaction levels. For example, 60% of commuters were satisfied with how long they had to wait for a bus in 2009. This proportion dropped to 56% in 2011, and hence more people have become unhappy about the wait. Have satisfaction levels fallen for other attributes too?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why are the trains and buses so crowded?

Photo from Hardwarezone
Singapore's buses and trains are pretty crowded - the crowds at Bishan station in the photo above depicts a typical weekday morning rush hour. Some blame the rising number of foreigners. For instance, one felt that "Singapore is definitely getting more and more crowded with more foreigners coming here. Travelling on the MRT during rush hour has become quite an uncomfortable experience."

While it is true that Singapore's population has grown - the number of people on our island grew 20% in the past 5 years - something deeper is at work here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How big is the "Dragon baby" boom?

A "Dragon baby" is a child born under the Dragon sign of the Chinese Zodiac. Arriving every 12 years, the Dragon year is considered auspicious by many Chinese, and children born that year are believed to be blessed with strength and luck. The New York Times reports that mainland Chinese flock to Hong Kong to escape China's one-child policy, and have Dragon children in Hong Kong. 

This birth spike is not without its problems. BBC News highlights that this creates problems as schools and hospitals are strained to accommodate the birth spike. With fewer places in hospitals, schools and jobs to go around, Dragon children look to face a lifetime of intense competition. Given this, surely some parents would opt to avoid the Dragon year. Is this enough to offset the birth spike?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Does economics justify high ministerial salaries?

Singapore ministers are known for drawing the largest salaries amongst politicians around the world - its Prime Minister earns US$1.7m a year, more than four times higher than Barack Obama's relatively paltry US$400,000. One reason, amongst others, is that without high pay, “corruption will set in, and we will become like many other countries, and face the problems that many other countries face,” then Defense Minister Teo Chee Hean told the press in 2007.

This is a contentious issue in Singapore. Opposition member of parliament Low Thia Kiang, in the same year, argued that Finland, Denmark and Switzerland managed to have less corruption with lower pay. Other opinions on the net range from outright disagreement - "you don’t need a ridiculous pay to prevent corruption" - to contemplative acceptance: "the only empirical study of the issue [...] concluded that higher pay was associated with less corruption".

Can economics contribute anything of value to this debate?