A huge research literature, across the behavioral and social sciences, uses information on individuals' subjective well-being. These are responses to questions--asked by survey interviewers or medical personnel--such as "how happy do you feel on a scale from 1 to 4?" Yet there is little scientific evidence that such data are meaningful. This study examines a 2005-2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System random sample of 1.3 million United States citizens. Life-satisfaction in each U.S. state is measured. Across America, people's answers trace out the same pattern of quality of life as previously estimated, using solely nonsubjective data, in a literature from economics (so-called "compensating differentials" neoclassical theory due originally to Adam Smith). There is a state-by-state match (r = 0.6, P
Basically they constructed an index of quality of life based on objective metrics. They then compared how those metrics related to surveyed subjective happiness, and came up with this 50 state scatterplot:
The correlation being ~0.6, that means that 36% of the variation of of subjective assessments of life satisfaction can be predicted by the variation in on the presumed predictors of happiness. Note that underlying demographic variables are controlled here. As I said above, Louisiana is ranked so that it should be the happiest state while New York the least. Here's the full list of 50 states:
District of Columbia
Citation: Objective Confirmation of Subjective Measures of Human Well-Being: Evidence from the U.S.A., Andrew J. Oswald and Stephen Wu (17 December 2009), Science [DOI: 10.1126/science.1180606]
"Objective Confirmation of..": that's their opinion. You could say with equal or better sense "Demonstration of feebleness of ...."
I find the abstract completely unintelligible. What is being correlated with what, and what is being ranked? If there's a worst-abstract context, please enter that one.
Has there been any progress in happiness research toward better questions that actually get a less random response than "How ya doin'?"
Objective, subjective, whatever...... The top eleven do seem to fit the schematic of my own personal experience, though I'd put Hawaii at the top.