New study finds that Louisiana is the happiest state, New York is the least

This isn’t some half-assed internet poll either. It is was a study conducted by Harvard researchers. A similar study by British researchers appeared in the ultra-prestigious journal Science a few years ago and reached the same conclusion. Florida and Hawaii also did well in both studies. I am very proud of my home state. It has major problems for sure, even a few massive ones but it a generally happy and fun place. What surprised me was that it wasn’t just New Orleans that scored highly (it did but Lafayette ranked as the ‘happiest’ city in the nation) but all of the top cities in the study were in Louisiana. It probably has something to do with its unique heritage and culture because I can’t think of any other reason it would score much differently than its neighbors and much higher than areas with a less oppressive climate and much more wealth.

New York state in general and NYC in particular ranked dead last. I don’t want to get into a pissing contest between regions or cities but that does help confirm something that I have known personally for a long time. I live in Massachusetts now which has a tremendous amount going for it objectively in terms of wealth, economy, health care, education and lots more yet people still don’t seem nearly as happy here as they do in much poorer (but sunnier and more laid back) states like Louisiana. It seems to be a conundrum. You can perform quite well on many objective measures and yet people still aren’t satisfied in general if the weather is bad, cost of living is high and life is centered around work and always doing better financially.

It’s all those circle jerks.

Louisiana drinks 23% more alcohol per capita than New York.

Just sayin’.

Probably not. I hear the incidence of those dropped of suddenly and inexplicably about 20 years ago and researchers are still scratching their heads to figure out why. A better explanation is probably the same reason that Denmark consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries - low expectations (seriously). Growing up, we all became conditioned to look at every state ranking study and just pray that Louisiana would not be dead last. There is a reason why ‘Thank God for Mississippi’ is a real idea there.

Scoring above 40th place on just about anything was cause for celebration and anything in the upper half simply meant that we kicked ass. We always knew that we would never be the richest, best educated or the best at much of anything except for enjoying life and partying without taking anything too seriously. That is apparently a really good recipe for a happy population even if the rest of the country keeps wagging their finger in your general direction about your bad scores in general.

I think that is why this study and others like it are interesting. Happiness does not correlate well at at with other economic and social measures. It is an independent measurement and you cannot achieve a happy population through rigidly engineered economic or social policy.

I can’t tell if you are implying that is a good thing or not. Of course they do. Have you ever been there? Louisiana is the land of drive-thru liquor stores, $10 all you can drink specials and Mardi Gras and it used to be a lot more lax than that. Maybe all New York needs to do is turn a part of Manhattan into a clone of Bourbon street and then they will feel better.

I’m not saying it is good or bad, only that drinking more is correlated with reporting more happiness.

Lower expectations certainly could be part of the explanation. Could the numbers also be skewed by a cultural bias towards complaining about things? Is it possible that the folks in Louisiana are just taught to not publicly bitch about their circumstance, while the New Yorkers are encouraged to make their vocalize their gripes, frequently and with relish? On paper it could look like one group was happier than the other, but it really would come down to how they deal with disappointment.

Looking at the map, I can only find five cities that seem to be “islands of happiness” compared to the surrounding area: Lincoln NE, Nashville TN, and Corpus Christi, McAllen and Lubbock TX (where happiness didn’t, in the end, turn out to be in Mac Davis’ rearview mirror)…