2009 December 19 Saturday
Happiest States: Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee, Arizona

What makes for happy places?

New research by the UK's University of Warwick and Hamilton College in the US into the happiness levels of a million individual US citizens have revealed their personal happiness levels closely correlate with earlier research that ranked the quality of life available in the US's 50 states plus the District of Columbia. This research provides a unique external validation of people's self reported levels of happiness and will be of great value to future economic and clinical research in this field.

The new research published in the journal Science on 17th December 2009 is by Professor Andrew Oswald of the UK's University of Warwick and Stephen Wu of Hamilton College in the US.

The researchers examined a 2005- 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System random sample of 1.3 million United States citizens in which Life-satisfaction in each U.S. state is measured. This provided a league table of happiness by US State reproduced below.

One pattern: sunnier places are happier. But one can find exceptions: Darker winter Alaska and Maine are happier. Sunny California is near the bottom of the happiness ranks. California's glory days were ruined by too much population growth and too much immigration. It is now a high tax, high living cost, crowded, and decaying state with low social capital. Also, Republican-leaning states are happier than Democratic-leaning states. Though again there are exceptions. Also, states with lower costs of living are happier. Yet Hawaii is in 1st place.

Andrew Oswald/ Wu ranking of happiness levels by US State

  1. Louisiana
  2. Hawaii
  3. Florida
  4. Tennessee
  5. Arizona
  6. Mississippi
  7. Montana
  8. South Carolina
  9. Alabama
  10. Maine
  11. Alaska
  12. North Carolina
  13. Wyoming
  14. Idaho
  15. South Dakota
  16. Texas
  17. Arkansas
  18. Vermont
  19. Georgia
  20. Oklahoma
  21. Colorado
  22. Delaware
  23. Utah
  24. New Mexico
  25. North Dakota
  26. Minnesota
  27. New Hampshire
  28. Virginia
  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. Massachusetts
  44. Ohio
  45. Illinois
  46. California
  47. Indiana
  48. Michigan
  49. New Jersey
  50. Connecticut
  51. New York

I'd really like to see a map that breaks happiness down by county. How do rural, suburban, and city life compare? How much does crime lower happiness? How does happiness track by race or IQ or income?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2009 December 19 04:06 PM  Human Nature

John Smith said at December 19, 2009 5:01 PM:

Different polling source, has a map by congressional district: http://www.ahiphiwire.org/wellbeing/
Fascinating stuff. Choose "life evaluation" from the list to see what would be classified as a "happiness" or "life satisfaction" ranking.

dk said at December 19, 2009 7:54 PM:

Seems that low land prices+semidecent climate+low "HBD" are the ticket. F and H obviously are outliers.

Oh, you should know I wasn't able to see the window to input the cap until I swiched to firefox. Tried and failed to post a bunch of times in IE.

Eric Johnson said at December 20, 2009 11:37 AM:

Even more than being rightish, they are hick states, with no great cosmopolitan cities of commerce and politics. Those that arent hick are just way out of the way (Hawaii). The exception is Florida, but the power elites in Florida are retired ones. The highest power state is Virginia, and at #28 it is below average. And you dont get to another power state until Washington at #36, and then DC just after it. In states 40-51 you see almost all the great universities. If you take the Ivies plus Stanford, MIT, Chicago, Berkeley, and maybe UVA and UCLA, virtually all of them are in states 40-51.

Personally I like the country and its people over the city, and would much rather live in the no-power zone, say Montana or Maine.

Since a lot of sociologists focus on community and family in happiness, though I dont know whether its import is really proven, we might consider the mobility of elites. Imagine modeling from Boston to Frisco, or NYC to Chicago, as something that often increases the happiness of the person doing it while decreasing that of the friends and family from their place of origin. Not all elites necessarily make a net gain from moving, but posit that 1/3 do.

Eric Johnson said at December 20, 2009 11:42 AM:

> The highest power state is Virginia

The highest-ranking on this list, that is, not the one that is highest in power.

Which is not to say that it doesnt rather have high power; only DC, Maryland, California, and NY can begin to compete with it.

Wolf-Dog said at December 20, 2009 5:58 PM:

If Louisiana ranks so high, this might be due to New Orleans, which is an entertaining place. You just need to avoid the crocodiles.

Incidentally, the film "Bad Lieutenant" is about New Orleans, and this is the best Nicholas Cage movie:


icr said at December 27, 2009 4:51 PM:

Louisiana may be happiest due to their lack of hypocrisy and Yankee puritanism: "Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez."They expect their politicians and preachers to be liars, thieves and whoremongers-who nevertheless are peasant clever enough not to petition DC to please send them Somali refugees . Kind of the anti-Minnesota.

Also Louisiana whites must be happier because they clearly don't give a damn what the outside world thinks of them: they gave David Duke 55-60% of their votes in two successive statewide elections. This also makes life less stressful for La blacks who therefore don't have to put with hordes of sniveling, spineless cowards in white skin.

H Bird said at June 6, 2010 5:49 AM:

Wolf-Dog, you are an idiot.

#1 Sure, New Orleans is entertaining .... for the TOURISTS! The residents work the bars & shops that cater to all those tourists, yet despite long hours and a lot of Yankee rudeness still manage to have a good outlook on life.

#2 People from all over the state were sampled, not just New Orleans.

#3 There are NO crocodiles in the state of Louisiana. Never have been. We have ALLIGATORS here. I realize you don't think there's any difference, but there is.

icr, there was quite a bit of history behind the David Duke vote.

When he ran for governor, he was running against a former governor who had defrauded the state, blatantly STOLE from public funds, and spent most of his terms in criminal court trying to defend himself. The initial primary votes for Duke were protest votes! However, when it came down to it, the residents voted to accept the crook rather than be complicit in electing the racist Nazi. http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110004262

*** So I guess by now it's obvious I am a Louisiana resident ;-)
This study did not come as a surprise to me at all! It's true that Louisiana ranks at or near the bottom in most traditional indexes. But there is a joie de vivre in the people here that is hard to explain. No matter what, these people persevere. They cherish friends and family. They value their time off work more than money and spend it relaxing, enjoying nature, or sharing good times with others. They are deeply appreciative of the natural gifts most others overlook. They are always willing to lend a helping hand to someone in need. Music and dancing are a big part of the lifestyle down here. It's no wonder our people are full of joy!

We don't need the approval of the world. We have each other.

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Web parapundit.com
Go Read More Posts On ParaPundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright