The roots of unhappiness

August 22, 2014

A new working paperMW-CN870_happy__MG_20140718112128 from the National Bureau of Economic Research says NYC is the Most Unhappy City in America.

The study includes a national map of happiness in which it’s easy to see that our region is the most happy and its pockets of (relative) unhappiness are happier than other region’s least-happy pockets.  The researchers claim to have struggled to establish any patterns in the data:

The trio [of researchers] found that significant differences in happiness levels persisted even after they controlled for factors such as income, race, and other personal characteristics. The differences in happiness are significant, but not huge.

We have our own theories, expressed occasionally here, most recently in April 2013:

New evidence from the dismal science confirms what social science has already shown: the love of taxes is the root of unhappiness.

The original social science, from the December 2009 issue of Science, indicated that states with the highest taxes also have the least happy residents.  Residents of high tax states not only have less money to spend on other things that make them happy, they don’t enjoy many benefits in exchange for all their hard-earned tax dollars.  Roads, schools, and crime are no better (and in many cases worse) while their state governments borrow even more and spend disproportionately on public employee pensions and entitlement programs.  Their needs ignored at the expense of entrenched special interests, taxpayers get unhappy.  And then they get out.

From this one might argue causation; high taxes = unhappiness.  While we are certainly sympathetic to that point of view, we also have to wonder if it runs vice-versa, or at least cuts both ways: unhappy people like to raise taxes.

We are… happy.  And happy to report that’s true for our region as well.  NVSE readers already know that the Southeast’s advantages extend well beyond the matter of taxes and include lower public sector debt burdens, stronger job creation, the best climate for entrepreneurs, and a superior overall business climate.  (The actual climate happens to be conducive to a great quality of life as well.)

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