Or so a large recent survey seems to show

Objective Confirmation of Subjective Measures of Human Well-Being: Evidence from the U.S.A.

By Andrew J. Oswald and Stephen Wu

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 U.S. 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, from solely nonsubjective data, in one branch of economics (so-called “compensating differentials” neoclassical theory, originally from Adam Smith). There is a state-by-state match (r = 0.6, P < 0.001) between subjective and objective well-being. This result has some potential to help to unify disciplines.

Science 29 January 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5965, pp. 576 – 579

More detail here. The study actually shows that people are happier if they live in more pleasant places but more pleasant places are of course in general more expensive so money buys you happiness by giving you better location choices.

One would think that location choice was only a small factor in the many things that can affect one’s happiness but the authors report a remarkably high correlation of .6 between happiness and the “amenity” of where you live. The correlation is however an “ecological” one (involving grouped data) in statistical terms and such correlations are often inordinately high so can be generalized from only weakly.

Posted by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don’t forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here

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