The Geography of American Happiness

Comments Off on The Geography of American Happiness
The Geography of American Happiness

Happiness may be a state of mind, but the physical location of an individual plays a major role in determining how happy he or she will feel. Even though Americans, on average, are the happiest large group of people on the planet, that average can mask wide differences from one part of the country to the next.

Several recent studies have examined the impact of geography on happiness in the U.S. For example, a Gallup poll conducted from June to December 2013 consisted of interviews with at least 600 residents in each of the 50 states.1

Residents were asked whether their states are "the best possible state to live in," "one of the best possible states to live in," "as good a state as any to live in," or "the worst possible state to live in."

In general, the poll found that geography influences happiness. States situated west of the Mississippi River received the highest ratings for happiness. At the top of the list, 77 percent of people in Montana and Alaska said their state is the best, or one of the best, places to live. Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado were also ranked high on the list. In fact, of the top 10 states, only New Hampshire at #7 and Vermont at #10 are east of the Mississippi.

Happiness is based on demographic differences as well as geographic ones. Most of the happiest states have relatively small populations. In fact, the top 10 includes the four smallest states by population: Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, and Alaska.

Even though Texas has the second largest population in the country, much of the state contains areas with very few people, for example Loving County has a population of 82, according to the 2010 Census, giving it the distinction of the least populous county in the United States.

Turning to the states that were least likely to be rated by their residents as among the best, nine of the ten states are east of the Mississippi River or border of it. Rhode Island, at 18 percent, and Illinois, at 19 percent, are at the very bottom, followed by Mississippi, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, New Jersey, Maryland, Missouri, and Connecticut. Only New Mexico was west of the Mississippi.2

When asked if their state was the worst possible state to live in, residents of Illinois were most likely to agree. This opinion appears to be linked to the state's high taxes and poor government. Illinois residents rank among the highest in the nation on surveys about dissatisfaction with the taxes they pay and distrust of state officials; this is not surprising since four of the past seven Illinois governors were sent to prison. By contrast, residents of the happiest states are less irked by the taxes they pay, have a higher standard of living, and are more trusting of their state government...

To continue reading, become a paid subscriber for full access.
Already a Trends Magazine subscriber? Login for full access now.

Subscribe for as low as $195/year

  • Get 12 months of Trends that will impact your business and your life
  • Gain access to the entire Trends Research Library
  • Optional Trends monthly CDs in addition to your On-Line access
  • Receive our exclusive "Trends Investor Forecast 2015" as a free online gift
  • If you do not like what you see, you can cancel anytime and receive a 100% full refund