Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Statistical Happiness

New York apparently is a state of mind--a state of unhappiness according to this article.
When the two sets were blended, the economists discovered that the subjective judgments closely tracked the objective ones. In other words, people knew what they were talking about when they said if they were happy or not. Americans who described themselves as satisfied tended to live in places where the quality of life was good by most standards — where the sun shone a lot, the air was reasonably clear, housing didn’t leave you busted, traffic wasn’t too fierce and so on.
This sounds quite intuitive, but we social scientists often expect perceptions and reality to diverge.  To see that the usual things that are supposed to affect our happiness actually seem to do so--well, that does surprise us.  Or at least me.  And the author of the article.

Happiest states:
Top 10 states on the happiness scale are, in descending order, Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee, Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, South Carolina, Alabama and Maine.
Some surprises there, as per capita income apparently is not related to happiness (Louisanna, Mississippi, Alabama).

Of course, the NY Times has to find a silver lining:
More important, might contentment be overrated? Seriously, isn’t restlessness, even outright discontent, often a catalyst for creativity?  We’re from the Harry Lime school. If you’ve seen the film classic “The Third Man,” you will remember that character’s admonition: “In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. “In Switzerland they had brotherly love. They had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
 This reeks of rationalization. Does misery love company, though?  Apparently.

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