Unhappy To Pay For A Better Minnesota

We’ve always known that those “Happy To Pay For A Better Minnesota” signs and slogans were buncombe – but it was more of a gut feeling.

But now we have empirical, clinical proof it’s all bull-effluvia.  The unhappiest states are the ones with the highest taxes; the happiest ones, pretty much, have the lowest taxes (with occasional emphasis added by me):

Does living in a blue state make people blue? It seems so, according to a new study in Science magazine that ranks states according to their happiness. The study finds that New Yorkers are the unhappiest people in America and their neighbors in Connecticut come in a close second, followed by Michigan, Indiana, New Jersey, California, and Illinois. And the happiest states? Drum roll, please…Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee, and Arizona.

Eight of the ten happiest states lean right while eight of the ten unhappiest tilt left. While the study by no means proves that being liberal makes people unhappy, it does reflect some of the unfortunate implications of living in a blue state.

As I noted above, this is “Science” magazine, not “Librels Are Teh Suck” blog. 

But first a note on the study. Using data from the 2005-2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and a 2003 economics paper examining quality-of-life indicators, economists regressed the subjective measure of well-being (how people rate their satisfaction) against the objective measure (states’ quality-of-life rankings based on compensating differentials). A compensating differential in labor economics refers to the additional amount of income an employer must pay a worker to compensate for the undesirability of a job or the location’s lack of amenities (e.g. local and state tax levels, climate, environmental conditions, quality of schools, and crime rates).

For example, employers in New York would have to pay higher wages to compensate for New York’s high taxes, traffic congestion, cold weather, and poor schools. Due to these “disamenities,” New York ranked lowest on the quality-of-life index.

And yes, the numbers show a pretty strong correlation:

What’s noteworthy about the study is that states’ quality-of-life rankings (measured by their compensating differentials) correlated exceedingly well with residents’ satisfaction ratings. The correlation between quality of life and satisfaction is statistically significant (P=0.0001; r=0.6; r2=0.36). The coefficient of determination r2 shows how well the regression line fits the data points. While an r2 of 0.36 may not seem large—and in some studies may not be statistically significant—it is unusually high by the standards of behavioral science. To give an idea of the magnitude of this correlation, the r2 of people’s satisfaction ratings taken two weeks apart is also 0.36.


The study suggests that quality of life heavily influences happiness. This may seem obvious, but until this study, social scientists have struggled to develop a model that supports this hypothesis. Now we know that people who say they’re satisfied with their lives aren’t just delusional or overly optimistic, and people who say they’re unsatisfied aren’t just pessimists. People have legitimate reasons to be happy or unhappy.

And well, high taxes seem to be a big reason—ostensibly an even bigger reason than weather given that California is one of the unhappiest states and inclement Louisiana is the happiest. Further, considering how much New York’s crime rate has dropped and schools have improved in the last decade, taxes seem to overwhelm even these two critical factors in the happiness equation. According to the Tax Foundation 2008 analysis, three of the top five unhappiest states—New York, Connecticut and New Jersey—have the highest state-local tax burdens. On the other hand, four of the top five happiest states—Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee and Arizona—are among the states with the lowest state-local tax burdens. True, correlation doesn’t prove causation, and high taxes alone don’t always make people miserable, but there’s something going on here.

Read the whole thing. 

While we’ve long known that conservatives are more charitable, are better in bed, and are just plain happier across the board than liberals, this is the first time we’ve shown a statistical correlation between taxation and misery.

I, for one, am happy to vote for a wealthier, happier, less-burdened Minnesota.

8 thoughts on “Unhappy To Pay For A Better Minnesota

  1. I am happy when I drop some currency into a Salvation Army kettle as I know it will go to good use with minimal administrative fees.
    I am unhappy when I buy beer and have to pay 9.75% sales tax, with much of that being pissed away by Big Gov’t.

    Happiness in taxes (lack of) in states may be related to happiness in being the most generous (see Mississippi).

  2. Conservatives are happier than liberals. Countdown to the snark “ignorance is bliss” begins now. (We’ve been down this road before)

  3. Hawaii is a high tax state & it ranks very high on the happiness list. Obviously taxes are not the only factor.

  4. Happiness for the new year 2010, wherever you wish to rank and by whatever criteria, all!

    (Yeah, even you KR).

    Dog Gone

  5. Stooj, ya think?

    DG, happy new year to you too. (I resolve not to hurt your feelings too much in twenty ten.) 😉

    Scarlett Johanson, you would be better in bed if you were a conservative. 8)

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