Fresh Eye on the Radio: Why we’re not happier

Apparently, Minnesota, you’d be happier in Florida, or Louisiana, or Hawaii. That’s the conclusion of researchers who studied happiness, as reported in this week’s issue of Science Magazine.

Minnesota comes in 26th in the survey, just behind North Dakota. Even Mississippi and Louisiana outscore us… by a lot. We are, however, happier than Wisconsin.

Says the AP:


The happiness ratings were based on a survey of 1.3 million people across the country by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It used data collected over four years that included a question asking people how satisfied they are with their lives.

Economists Andrew J. Oswald of the University of Warwick in England and Stephen Wu of Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., compared the happiness ranking with studies that rated states on a variety of criteria ranging from availability of public land to commuting time to local taxes.

But it’s a 1997 paper of Oswald that may have more relevance, given the times we’re in. In it, he concluded that journalists and politicians deliver a message that economic prosperity leads to an increase in happiness in its people. He says good times increase individual happiness, but only by a small amount:

How can it be, one might ask, that money buys little well-being and yet we see individuals around us constantly striving to make more of it? The answer may be that what matters to someone who lives in a rich country is his or her relative income. A spectator who leaps up at a football match gets at first a much better view of the game; by the time his neighbours are up it is no better than before. If there is something to this, it would explain why intuition is capable of misleading us about the national benefits of economic performance. Such intuition has been built up by observing how each of us feels as our income rises. Yet, implicitly, that holds others’ incomes constant. Hence common-sense may not be a good guide to what happens when a whole society gets richer.

Florida? Louisiana? Hawaii? They don’t have Mary Lucia.

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