Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Virginia's in the Middle of the Happiness Quotient

A new study from the United Kingdom's University of Warwick and America's Hamilton College has organized the U.S.'s states into happiness groups and, frankly, there isn't much of a surprise here, save for the fact that Louisiana, which still hasn't recovered from Katrina, is first.

As you might expect, the heavily populated, congested and cranky states are at the bottom with New York ranking 51st among the states and Washington D.C. Just look at the bottom 11 states--Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, California, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York--and you'll note the last three are New York City and its suburbs. The others include Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and the rest of California and Boston. Big, bigger, biggest.

On the other end of the scale, you have the rural south, southwest and midwest (with, of course, Hawaii, which doesn't fit anywhere because it isn't really part of us. Neither is Alaska, but there they sit with Palinland at a surprisingly pleasant No. 11).

You can look here and see how the study was conducted.

Virginia rests at an undistinguished 28 and I blame that on the existence of Northern Virginia and Tidewater, which have more to do with the big congested areas than they do with what we know here in the western end of the state. My guess is if we were polled separately, our status would improve dramatically.

Professor Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick, one of the leads in the study, wasn't especially surprised at the results. He said, “We have been asked a lot whether we expected that states like New York and California would do so badly in the happiness ranking. Having visited and lived in various parts of the U.S., I am only a little surprised. Many people think these states would be marvellous places to live in. The problem is that if too many individuals think that way, they move into those states, and the resulting congestion and house prices make it a non-fulfilling prophecy. In a way, it is like the stock market. If everyone thinks it would be great to buy stock X, that stock is generally already overvalued. Bargains in life are usually found outside the spotlight. It seems that exactly the same is true of the best places to live."

Here's the rundown:

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


  1. I lived in the #1 spot, and it wasn't #1 in my book. Also spent time in Colorado which I believe should be in the Top 10.

  2. Susan: Every state I've been in--save Florida and Oklahoma--has something to recommend it. Even Texas has the People's Republic of Austin. It's the huge, unmanageable urban areas that lead to distress, I suspect.