SIGNS OF THE TIMES
New Yorkers are unhappy, it seems. In an article from today’s New York Times entitled “New York Ranks Last in Happiness Rating,” Clyde Haberman reports on an article published last week Science magazine by two economists, Andrew J. Oswald (University of Warwick, UK) and Stephen Wu (Hamilton College). Why are economists publishing in Science? Accoding to the article’s abstract, Oswald and Wu’s study “has some potential to help to unify disciplines” because it brings together subjective and “nonsubjective” data.
Oswald and Wu’s article is called “Objective Confirmation of Subjective Measures of Human Well-Being: Evidence from the U.S.A.,” and it brings together data collected in two separate studies. One was Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2005-2008 in which a random sample of 1.3 million United States citizens in which life-satisfaction in each U.S. state was measured. This data was merged with data published in 2003 by UCLA researcher Stuart Gabriel that considered various indicators from for each state, such as precipitation; temperature; wind speed; sunshine; coastal land; inland water; public land; National Parks; hazardous waste sites; environmental ‘greenness’; commuting time; violent crime; air quality; student-teacher ratio; local taxes; local spending on education and highways; cost of living.
New York apparently came in 51st. No that’s not like the 11 on Spinal Tap‘s amps: the District of Columbia was included in the study. Here are the bottom ten:
42 Rhode Island
49 New Jersey
51 New York
Haberman chooses to see a silver lining in this results, citing what he calls the “Harry Lime” principle:
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.”
On the other hand, there are reasons to think that there’s something, well, dated about the data, because the number one state turns out to be … Louisiana! (You can see the full ranked list in this article from the University of Warwick website.)