So the past couple of days at the MPI – under the ever-watchful analytical eye of Charlotta Mellander – we took the Gallup happy states data and compared it to various measures of state economies. This is a first cut analysis and it’s dealing only with correlation or association and not causation, but the relationships are nonetheless interesting. Here’s a quick rundown.
Our analysis is in sync with what Will Wikinson already has pointed to: State happiness is associated with income (a correlation of .33 with our measure of average income), as well as housing prices (.49). Makes sense: People are willing to pay to live in happy places, and people with more income have more choices. And it’s even more closely associated with levels of human capital (that is, share of adults with a bachelor’s degree or above – it’s . 77)
And what about the creative class? Happy states appear to be creative states – at least as measured by the share of people employed in creative class jobs (with a correlation of .48). The correlations are even higher for the the super-creative core and the the overall creativity index (.53).
Makes you wonder: Are creatives more likely to live in happy places or are they more likely to be happy people? Well… psychologists have identified a powerful relationship between creativity and happiness. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi finds that engaging in creative activities like writing, playing music, computer programming, mountain climbing, or chess is a major source of happiness. But in her workplace studies, Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School says it works the other way around: She finds that it’s happiness – or should I say happy workplaces – that generate creative thinking and workplace innovation as opposed to vice versa. Psychologist Barbara Fredricksons suggests that “positive” people are more open-minded, less racially biased, more likely to see the bigger picture, and ultimately more creative. So maybe this kind of thing scales up from who we are and what we do to where we live.
On that score, yes, happy states are also apparently those greater concentrations bohemians (.43), immigrants (.36 ), and gays (.32), as well as states with higher levels of high-tech industry (.22) or those with more innovative potential.
One worrying finding: States with a large concentration of the working class are far less happy – with a negative correlation of (-.51). That’s downright unhappy. Perhaps Marx was right after all about the alienation that comes from industrial work – or in this case the unhappiness found in working class locations. We’ll be doing more on the connection between economic structure and state happiness in the future.
Is there any connection between between happy states and the personality types that live there? Using data provided by Cambridge University psychologist Jason Rentfrow we were able to compare happy states to the concentrations of the five major personality types – extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness-to-experience, and neuroticism. While it may not come as a big surprise, neurotic states were far less happy states – the correlation between the two being (-.62). The correlations for all four other personality types were all insignificant.
Take a look at the graphs here and let us know what you see – and think.