Friday, December 18, 2009

Happiness According to State

A new study published in Science magazine ranks states in the US according to the happiness of its residents. The happiness data came from a survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of 1.3 million people across the US. The Science study by economists Andrew J. Oswald and Stephen Wu sought to understand why the numbers fall out the way they do, and they found that "The places where people are most likely to report happiness also tend to rate high on studies comparing things like climate, crime rates, air quality and schools." The complete list follows, but for those who know my personal orientation, the Nylachi numbers go like this:

45. Illinois
46. California
51. New York

[I just know that there will be comments to the effect of how this data should be discounted because we don't have the names of all those who were interviewed, and because "I know some people who live in New York and they're happy."]

The state-by-state list, from happiest to least cheery as reported by the Associated Press in The Charleston Gazette:

1. Louisiana

2. Hawaii

3. Florida

4. Tennessee

5. Arizona

6. South Carolina

7. Mississippi

8. Montana

9. Alabama

10. Maine

11. Wyoming

12. Alaska

13. North Carolina

14. South Dakota

15. Texas

16. Idaho

17. Vermont

18. Arkansas

19. Georgia

20. Utah

21. Oklahoma

22. Delaware

23. Colorado

24. New Mexico

25. North Dakota

26. Minnesota

27. Virginia

28. New Hampshire

29. Wisconsin

30. Oregon

31. Iowa

32. Kansas

33. Nebraska

34. West Virginia

35. Kentucky

36. Washington

37. District of Columbia

38. Missouri

39. Nevada

40. Maryland

41. Pennsylvania

42. Rhode Island

43. Ohio

44. Massachusetts

45. Illinois

46. California

47. New Jersey

48. Indiana

49. Michigan

50. Connecticut

51. New York


joshcon80 said...

Whatever. Maybe the people in the top ten are only happy because they're insufferably stupid.


In all seriousness and on a personal not, I bet if they'd asked only queer people this would look differently. That was my first thought. "Clearly these people are not like me."

Anyway, all the states are the worst. God, I wish I were French.

joshcon80 said...

"Look different," rather.

joshcon80 said...

And "personal note." God, I'M the one who is insufferably stupid. I deserve New York.

Scott Walters said...

Josh -- But how much is the NYC centralization of queer people like the centralization of theatre: a self-fulfilling prophecy. Wouldn't we be better off if queer people were scattered around the country, just like theatre? Wouldn't we be more likely to pass equal rights measures everywhere?

Of course, I am posting this not to rub the Nylachi noses in it, but rather to indicate that there are, indeed, reasons people might NOT want to live there. And those people deserve the arts just as much as Nylachi.

joshcon80 said...

I've often thought so, yes. But that requires a group of people to be incredibly brave. Remember, not all of the gay folks in NYC/Los Angeles etc are actually from there. We remember what it was like in our respective hometowns aren't aren't too eager to go back in many cases.

A friend of my mother's once asked me if I felt frightened walking through Brooklyn at night. My answer? Nope. I feel unsafe walking though small town Ohio. But I do recognize that NYC both protects me and traps me.

Anyway, all of this is off topic. It was just my very first thought, so I shared it.

Oh, and I totally know any number of reasons people wouldn't want to live here. Hell, I don't want to live here. I just don't have any other options.

99 said...

Don't make get all Atrios on you and defend my urban hellhole! I love the grime, grit, crap schools, violence, sociopathy and cramped living conditions! I do!

In all seriousness, I do notice that in the bottom section of the list are the wealthiest portions of the country, and the states that, in general, receive less federal aid for social programs, while, near the top of the list, the beneficiaries of federal aid are clumped. That, I'm sure, has something to do with the overall happiness, as defined by a set of qualities that are largely dependent on governmental spending and federal regulation (which is often altered to suit the agendas of small-population states, who, in the World's Most Dysfunctional Body (i.e. The U.S. Senate) have equal representation).

I completely agree that there is a bias towards urban centers and populous states in a way, but there's also a lot of discrimination against those states and a fair amount of assumptions about life there that are hard to shake.

I agree wholeheartedly with joshcon; there are definitely types of people who feel more comfortable in an urban center than in a rural area and in order to achieve the parity that I think we all want, some people will have to be brave and deal with regions that aren't particularly welcoming at first, sometimes at actual physical peril.

Uke Jackson said...

I'll trade you Pennsylvania for New York City pretty much any day of the week. At least NY gives grants to artists.

Scott Walters said...

I'd also remind you, Joshua, that the Stonewall riots happened in NYC -- it wasn't ALWAYS a safe haven for gays. Also, didn't the NY legislature just kill gay marriage rights by a large margin, but it is legal in Iowa?

Sure, Uke, you don't think that sort of cronyism happens only in PA and not in NYC...

Uke Jackson said...

You're probably right, Scott. Cronyism and corporatism is a sure sign of fascism. Maybe it's time for a General Strike? Or a series of general strikes? Such actions would be great opportunities for street theater, and they would bring the powers that be to their knees, and lower.

Malachy Walsh said...

I never really understood surveys like this and whether or not they have any real value.

Partly because it's easy to find stats that suggest that the following statement - "The places where people are most likely to report happiness also tend to rate high on studies comparing things like climate, crime rates, air quality and schools." - is quite flawed.

For instance, several studies suggest that the 10 "most dangerous" states (as measured by per capita crime rate for 6 serious crimes which are all equally weighted) do not include NY or CA, and that Louisiana is actually considered the 2nd most dangerous state in the Union. (Nevada is #1, South Carolina is #3, followed by NM, FL, TN, AL, AZ, MD and MI.)

What does stand out to me about the top 10 "happiest" states as that all of them, except Montana and Maine and Hawaii are south of the Mason Dixon line, which means they're more temperate. But even that doesn't help me make sense of the list since CA is certainly quite nice in terms of weather.... Still, you can't help but notice the pattern in that top 10.

joshcon80 said...

Scott, I didn't mean to turn it into a gay rights conversation. (I have a really bad habit of that.) I know I'm prone to hyperbole, but like I said earlier... all the states are pretty horrible. As for Stonewall, I keep knocking on wood that we'll get another one soon. I'm pretty tired of candlelight vigils.

patrick said...

Does the theatre in Louisiana seem any more cheery than the theatre in Michigan? I wonder how a state's level of happiness is reflected on their seasons/stages...if at all.

silent nic@knight said...

Happy, that’s a good thing, right?