Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Tue Nov 10th 2009 at 9:00am UTC

Happy (and not so happy) Places

BuddhaHappy

There’s no shortage of lists of the world’s happiest nations or of the happiest of the 50 U.S. states. The folks at the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index have also compiled detailed happiness scores for America’s 435 Congressional Districts (see the map below).

WellBeingDistricts

The table below shows the 10 highest-scoring and the 10 lowest-scoring congressional districts on the Well-Being Index. The table speaks for itself. The happiest districts are among the most affluent in the nation. Six of the top 10 are affluent and physically magnificent California communities. The least happy districts are mainly places of extreme disadvantage, inner-city neighborhoods in Detroit, Cleveland, South Philly, the Bronx, or Appalachia. There are a couple of slight anomalies – wealthy Grosse Point, Michigan, is lumped together with poor inner-city Detroit neighborhoods (wonder why that would be?), and given the devastation of greater Detroit it’s not surprising that even the rich would be less happy then elsewhere. And hipster Williamsburg is lumped together with Bed-Stuy: But, then again, whoever said hipsters were happy…

happy1

happy2

9 Responses to “Happy (and not so happy) Places”

  1. Michael Wells Says:

    It looks like the creative class cities are mostly top 20%, if I’m looking at my geography right. Portland, Seattle/Bellevue, Silicon Valley, Boulder, Austin, Boston, Santa Fe, etc. Of course, these are mostly higher income too — Portland’s high tech/richer Westside First District is top 20% while its Eastside 3rd District is middle — and the 3rd is where the hipsters live, but also has most of the lower income suburbs.

    The lowest 20% line that runs along the Appalachians is striking. Is it more than income? Dispirited at the rate of change, left out of the creative class economy, something in the water?

  2. BarryG Says:

    Gotta defend South Philly. It’s not the happiest place on earth but that congressional district covers much more than South Philadelphia–it also contains Chester and Darby which are… well, a lot less happy than South Philly.

  3. Sara Says:

    Yup – Pennsylvania-01 as just being South Philadelphia is completely incorrect – it includes Center City Philadelphia east of Broad Street; Old City; Northern Liberties; parts of Northeast Philadelphia; parts of Southwest Philadelphia; Chester, PA; Yeadon, PA; and Darby, PA.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Numbers alone mean nothing, and this post conflates some of the terminology. The link you reference doesn’t mention the word “happy” or “happiness” at all, only “well-being”. Presumably the biggest component of “well-being” is healthiness, and of course well-off districts are *healthier* – they can afford the best health insurance, and their higher taxes provide them better access to better medical services.

    Can you provide any resources explaining how the “well-being number” is calculated?

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Answered my own question – here’s an explanation of the methodology:
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/106756/galluphealthways-wellbeing-index.aspx

    From the article:
    The research and methodology underlying the Well-Being Index is based on the World Health Organization definition of health as “not only the absence of infirmity and disease, but also a state of physical, mental, and social well-being.”

    * Also note: this doesn’t have anything to do with happiness. You can all go back to assuming that Williamsburg and South Philly are just fat, uninsured, and care free; and that the rich kids in silicone valley eat only superfood omega-3 wheatgrass smoothies and are completely miserable while doing it.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    P.S.
    Here’s a map of PA-1

    Hardly a demographically homogeneous district:
    http://www.brady.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=59&sectiontree=6,59

  7. Dan Cory Says:

    Viewing big maps is easier with Seadragon.com: http://seadragon.com/view/fqi

    It would be even better if we can find a higher resolution version.

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