Monday, April 25, 2011

Mapping Happiness in the U.S. - Happiness by Congressional District

The NYTimes put together a fascinating interactive infographic that maps well-being (which I've chosen to call happiness, though they're not necessarily identical) across the entire U.S., by Congressional district:


Click the image or here to see the original, interactive version, which lets you break down the composite score into a wide range of individual indicators, such as learning, stress, self-reported happiness, depression, health indicators, job satisfaction, etc.

What can we learn from this map? In general, it apparently sucks to live in rural areas in the U.S., except if you live in the upper Midwest. It also helps to live near the ocean, unless your stretch of ocean is in a Southeastern state (except for South Carolina). From the interactive version, we learn that the Southeast continues to be at the bottom of a number of important happiness indicators - ongoing learning, stress, self-reported happiness, depression, self-reported health problems, smoking, diabetes, obesity, exercise, access to health insurance and dental care, and food insecurity.

I don't claim causation, but it's interesting to compare this map of well-being with the map of state taxes that I posted a while ago. Lower tax burdens generally seem to correlate with lower happiness and well-being (and higher tax burdens with higher happiness and well-being), with some notable exceptions: Ohio, Georgia, and Arkansas (where people are unhappy and have high taxes), much of the upper Midwest (is there something in the water there that just makes everyone happy?), and Alaska (I can see that being able to pay for much of your state's services with oil revenue rather than through taxes would increase happiness).

So, seriously, what is it about the upper Midwest that makes people so happy? It can't be the winters ....

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