The Top 10 Happiest States In the Nation

Ed BurghardHappiness is Important to Sustainable Business Success

How important is employee happiness to bottom-line P&L results for a company? As it turns out, probably more important than you might think. In 2012, Business Week published an article summarizing research done over the past decade, and concluded people perform better when they are happier. The article cited a Gallup study, which reports that lost productivity due to employee disengagement costs more than $300B per year in the U.S. annually.

In a world where every fraction of a percent in P&L performance is aggressively fought for, employee happiness matters.

The reality is that company culture plays a key role in overall employee happiness. But, location can play an important contributing role. If employees are dissatisfied with where they are living, it can have a magnifying effect of challenges encountered in the workplace. As a consequence, CEOs can help create a positive work environment by locating their business operation in locations where people report a higher degree of happiness.

Here is a great infographic on Job Satisfaction and Happiness in the Workplace . Some of the drivers of employee happiness may surprise you.

Which State is The Happiest in the Nation?

The answer is – It depends on which survey you read.

OLD APPROACH – Gallup-Healthways Study

Fox News reports on the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey to measure happiness that is a composite of six measures: life evaluation (self-evaluation about your present life situation and anticipated one in five years); emotional health; work environment (such as job satisfaction); physical health; healthy behavior; and basic access (access to health care, a doctor, a safe place to exercise and walk, and community satisfaction). According to the Gallup survey, Hawaii is the “happiest” state in the nation. But, it is important to note the survey was actually designed based on the WHO definition of health. It is an assessment of physical, mental and social wellbeing. It would be more precise to say that Hawaii is the state with the most positive perceived impact on a person’s “wellbeing”.

But, is health the same as happiness? Well, the media would have you believe it is. But, academic research actually sees happiness and wellbeing as related but different concepts.

NEW APPROACH – American Dream Composite Index Study

A data mining analysis of Xavier University’s American Dream Composite Index (ADCI) survey is a new way of evaluating happiness, and the results present a very different picture than the Gallup-Healthways study. Based on the ADCI data, New Mexico is the “happiest” state in the Nation. As background, the research questions used by Xavier University are different than Gallup-Healthways study. The Xavier University ADCI survey assesses a person’s happiness at that moment in time when somebody is going about their day. The questions designed specifically for the ADCI study were informed by a seminal piece of literature on happiness published by the Social Indicators Research Journal, February 1999, volume 46, Issue 2, pp 137-155.  If you are not familiar with the Social Indicators Research Journal, it is a leading publication for research on measurement of quality of life. The paper is entitled “A Measure of Subjective Happiness: Preliminary Reliability and Construct Validation” authored by Sonja Lybormirsky and Heidi S. Lepper.

For perspective, the ADCI assessment of happiness does not include the other quality of life dimensions that are used by Gallup-Healthways in their happiness score.  It is also important to note that the ADCI survey results reflect the sentiment of people living in each state.


Happiest States

Click on the thumbnail to see a full sized version of the table.  It is interesting to note, only Montana appears as one of the top 10 happiest states on both lists.


How important do you believe happiness is in the site selection decision? If your state were ranked in the top 10, how would you use the data in a conversation with a site selection consultant or a CEO looking to decide where to locate their business operation?  Please add a comment.

Read About My Journey To Learn More About The American Dream

American Dream Case Study Series

Indiana versus Michigan

Florida versus North Carolina

New York versus New Jersey

California versus Texas

Pennsylvania versus New York

How Easy Is It To Achieve The American Dream In Your State?

To view the complete set of State rankings based on the ADCI and five explanatory sub-indexes, simply click this button

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