Crunching the Numbers on Love

I’ve spent the last few days crunching data from the largest-ever international survey of love.  Specifically, in 2006 and 2007, the Gallup World Poll went to 136 countries around the world and asked people, “Did you experience love for a lot of the day yesterday?” Betsey Stevenson and I report our initial analysis of the data in our latest column.  A snippet:

The good news: Ours is a loving world. On a typical day, about 70 percent of people worldwide reported a love-filled day. In the U.S., 81 percent felt love… Across the world as a whole, the widowed and divorced are the least likely to experience love. Married folks feel more of it than singles. People who live together out of wedlock report getting even more love than married spouses… If you’re young and not feeling all that loved this Valentine’s Day, don’t despair: You’re not alone. Young adults are among the least likely to experience love. It gets better with age, ultimately peaking in the mid-30s or mid-40s in most countries before fading again into the twilight years.

We’ve also compiled a Global Love Ranking. You’ll learn, among other things, that the Philippines is the most love-struck country of all, and on any given day, 93 percent of its citizens say they experienced love yesterday.  The US comes in at 26th, my native Australia is 44th, and the Armenians are dead last, with fewer than one-in-three experiencing love.

Here’s my Valentine’s Day Challenge: What explains the incidence of love around the world?  I’m interested in charts, regressions, narratives, and conjectures.  Either respond in the comments below, or play along on Twitter, using the hashtag #lovedata.  I’m sure we can rustle up some swag for the best analysis.

I should warn you, it’s harder than it looks. For instance, here’s my first attempt at explaining the data, simply using GDP per capita:

While the relationship in this chart is statistically significant, it explains very little of what’s going on.  I’m sure you can do better though, which is why I’ve published the full spreadsheet, complete with 3-letter international country codes (all the better for merging on new explanatory variables), in a Google Doc.

So, what explains love?  And just as importantly, what doesn’t?

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  1. Daniel says:

    In order to understand what explains love, don’t you first need to understand what love is?

    This could be taken as a an unanswerable philosophical question of course, but for the purposes of this question it could be seen as a sociological one. Different societies inevitably have a different definition of love and indeed, the word itself is not ubiquitous across different languages.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
    • Jack says:

      I’m not a smart man, Jenny. But I do know what love is.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2
    • Joseph says:

      Perhaps counties where familial or friendship love is considered love, and where families live together, are those that score highest in this survey.

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  2. J says:

    My sweetheart is Armenian, so I can only apologize to the other two people who must be unlucky in love.

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  3. DavC says:

    Wouldn’t it be more feasible that societies where people experience the greatest amount of love are the most prosperous thus having a greater GDP per capita? I mean, maybe love causes GDP and not the opposite

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  4. Renars says:

    For me it seems that the graphical data represents a shape of heart…

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    • Ryan says:

      The heart (or U-shape?) could be significant: the very poor and very rich in terms of GDP less often have a low proportion of love. Just looking at the chart, the bottom 10 love proportions all seem to have non-extreme GDP. Perhaps the very “poor” have to look to love to remain content, while the very “rich” have more opportunities to be loved? How well does a parabola fit the data?

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  5. koda says:

    lol, love is pretty simple. and generic numbers from population samples won’t substitute for deep analytical thinking and development of hypothesis.

    here’s a tip, three roots of it are emotional dependence, insecurity, and the satisfaction of one’s objective criteria in a mate.

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  6. Pierre-Louis says:

    I ran a few regressions using WDI data. It seems richer countries do feel more love… But an even stronger relationship is between income inequalities and love. The more unequal, the more love!
    What I also found is that more love is correlated with lower military expenditures (as a share of total gov expenditures). Make love not war? And it seems love does not predict fertility… who would’ve thought!

    Check out the scatters here:

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  7. brazzy says:

    Could be as simple as cultural differences in how seriously the word “love” is taken. A country in which it’s unthinkably crass to say “OMG I just *love* Doritos” will probably score pretty low here even though the people there love and are loved no less than anyone else.

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  8. Enter your name... says:

    It might be interesting to compare household size. More members means more opportunities for someone to have been loving. On the other hand, fewer sleep-destroying babies probably means less frazzled adults, so perhaps what’s really wanted is the household size only of people over the age of three.

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