Sunday, February 23, 2014

State of American Well-being

Gallup-Healthways has released their 2013 report on the State of American Well-being, which ranks the US states according to their general happiness. The sample size is 178,000 adults interviewed during 2013 across all 50 states. The survey uses 55 measurements in 6 domains, however as of January 2014 Gallup-Healthways are changing to 5 dimensions instead of 6.The 2013 scales used in this study are:

1. Life Evaluation Index: derived from the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale which asks the participant to evaluate their life satisfaction now and their expected satisfaction in 5 years.
2. Emotional Health Index: asks participants how they felt yesterday in 9 dimensions.
3. Physical Health Index: questions about BMI, disease burden & disease history, sick days, physical pain, daily energy & daily health.
4. Healthy Behaviour Index: measures life-style habits related to health outcomes
5. Work Environment Index: measures feelings and perceptions of the work environment.
6. Basic Access Index: 13 items measuring access to food, shelter, healthcare and a safe & satisfying place to live.

The figure below describes the States' composite well-being rankings in 2012 and 2013. What on earth happened in the two Dakotas last year?

There's some interesting geographic clustering, particularly for the top and bottom quintiles. The happiest states are mostly in the North & Mid-West, the unhappiest are in the South.

The study also ranks the states using their average well-being index score over the last 5 years (2008-13). I recoded this ranking so that the highest ranked state on average over this period (Hawaii) was ordered number 50 and the lowest ranked state (West Virginia) was number 1. I then plotted this ranking against the average Gross State Product of the 50 states for 2008-12, shown below. I categorized the states using the same quintile colouring as the above graphs and the size of the bubble shows the square root of the state population. The poorest states have the lowest average well-being rankings and there is a slight positive linear relationship between higher GSP and higher Well-Being rank (R-squared = 0.20, t=3.43).


Liam Delaney said...

Don't want whether it is a causal factor in generating the ranking increases but North Dakota has been having a boom related to oil for last couple of years. Running large budget surpluses etc.,

K Denny said...

Interesting that income does a good job at the very low end of the distribution. As for big movers like the Dakotas and Wyoming it would help to know the standard deviation: how much do rankings normally change?

Michael Daly said...

For similar UK well-being by area stats-

Enda Hargaden said...

Such a foolhardy endeavour.

In any theoretical model I've ever seen the equilibrium has everyone in their preferred state of residence.

Michael Daly said...

Interesting point, this assumes low mobility costs, high levels of information and quick adjustment. The case of Dakota's oil boom and increase in the rankings could show how it is possible to benefit from changes in a state. The key question here is whether the benefit occurs in a model that is adjusted for the characteristics of citizens to ensure it is not driven by an influx of happier individuals.

Enda Hargaden said...

I was only messing, Michael :)

There is a serious question underneath the joke though, and you allude to it, about valuing local amenities when people have heterogeneous tastes.

Mark Egan said...

I hadn't heard of such models Enda, are they in the same galaxy where mass unemployment is a function of people suddenly shifting their leisure preferences?

Enda Hargaden said...

Hi, Mark.

The canonical example is the Tiebout sorting model. People who like public goods flock to cities where they are provided, and people who like big houses live in places with low taxes. Thus trying to rank places based on e.g. availability of public transport may overlook something quite important about the selection into these locations.

Of course the whether these models belong in another galaxy depends on the extent to which people will move to places that match their tastes.