Friday, March 20, 2009

Suicide and GDP

Literacy does strange things to people.  It seems to give people entirely different aspirations and goals, and in that sense, has obliterated whatever pre-literate culture we used to have.  It's one of the most powerful ways to reduce fertility--though Brazilian soap operas also seem to do the job.

High literacy rates also seem to increase suicide rates when paired with low national incomes.  The study was initially done in the context of Central Europe, but transfers over very well into Kerala.  This is an Indian state lauded for its success in delivering education and healthcare to the masses, but whose Communist leaders are equally successful in killing jobs.  The suicide rate is high as well as alcohol consumption.  When people get educated, they either get a job that matches their aspiration or they get really unhappy.  This is why a growth-oriented economy doesn't just keep people running after stupid material positions, but is the best way to handle their more aspirational goals, or why Kerala is not so great at fulfilling Sen/Nussbaum's views of human flourishing.  Which is a little ironic, as Sen at least is most responsible for raising the "high human development, low growth" model in the public view.

Apparently in Saudi Arabia, women are increasingly dominating the educated workforce, and are refusing to marry men in a traditional marriage.  It'll be interesting to see how that plays out.

No comments: