Research Question: Why are New Yorkers miserable? Hypothesis: Because New York is not a pleasant place to live.
The AP reports that New Yorkers ranked last in a CDC study comparing happiness across the states, which will not surprise anyone who has taken the subway on a weekday morning. More surprising is that Florida, that perversion of man and nature, is one of the happiest states! (Is it the python infestations or the meth hotspots that fill Florida residents with joy?) Louisiana is apparently the happiest state, although this survey was done before Katrina.
Two economists wanted to know what was causing people to be miserable or happy in different states like this. So, they compared the CDC's 'subjective' happiness data with 'objective' measures of quality-of-life, like weather, the size and number of parks, commuting time and taxes. (Of course economists would count taxes as quality-of-life issue.)
Their findings are completely obvious and unsurprising in the way that most social science is:
The places where people are most likely to report happiness also tend to rate high on studies comparing things like climate, crime rates, air quality and schools.
Wait—so people don't like being choked by smog or getting mugged!? The economists who wrote the paper think this is a big deal because, even though the results were totally obvious:
This is the first objective validation of 'happiness' data," which is something he says 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.
So, New Yorkers, you are unhappy because your state—and by association, your life—"truly" sucks. Thank you, economics!
Although this entire line of inquiry is based on the false assumption that New Yorkers give a shit about being happy.
(Editor's Note: I originally wrote this on Thursday, but due to technical difficulties it didn't post! That is why this post is about an article that is so ancient, by Internet standards.)