Illinois Among the Unhappiest States in the Union

People in sunny, outdoorsy states — Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida — say they're the happiest Americans

By Andrew Greiner
|  Friday, Dec 18, 2009  |  Updated 10:00 AM CDT
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The weather here stinks. The traffic sucks. And the taxes are too high.

No wonder Illinois ranks 45 out of 51 states -- including D.C. -- in a recent comprehensive happiness study.

Not surprisingly people in sunny, outdoorsy states — Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida — say they're the happiest Americans.

The happiness ratings were based on a survey of 1.3 million people across the country by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It used data collected over four years that included a question asking people how satisfied they are with their lives.

Economists Andrew J. Oswald of the University of Warwick in England and Stephen Wu of Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., compared the happiness ranking with studies that rated states on a variety of criteria ranging from availability of public land to commuting time to local taxes.

"This is the first objective validation of 'happiness' data," Oswald said, noting that happiness data is something economists have been reluctant to use in the past.

"Very loosely, you could say that we prove that happiness data are 'true,' — such data have genuine objective informational content," he said.

"Moreover," Oswald added, "it is interesting to uncover the pattern of life-satisfaction across one of the world's important nations."

Oswald suggested the long commutes, congestion and high prices around cities like New York City  and Chicago account for some of the unhappiness.

He said he has been asked if the researchers expected that states like New York and California, which ranked 51st and 46th, repsectively, would do so badly in the happiness ranking.

"I am only a little surprised," he said. "Many people think these states would be marvelous places to live in. The problem is that if too many individuals think that way, they move into those states, and the resulting congestion and house prices make it a non-fulfilling prophecy."

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