In Which States Are Residents Happiest?

Ed BurghardSome cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)


By Edward Burghard


The power of the American Dream Composite Index research is found in understanding the 5 sub-indexes and 35 dimensions that comprise the ADCI.

The American Dream Happiness dimension measures the level of resident “satisfaction and contentment with one’s life”.

Bottom 10 Ranked States

Here are the 10 lowest scoring states:

  1. Massachusetts
  2. Alabama
  3. Iowa
  4. Kentucky
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Arkansas
  7. Vermont
  8. Nevada
  9. Hawaii
  10. Wyoming

Read the above as residents in these locations have the lowest degree of self reported happiness.

Top 10 Ranked States

On contrast, here are the 10 highest scoring states:

  1. New Mexico
  2. Montana
  3. Connecticut
  4. North Dakota
  5. South Carolina
  6. Delaware
  7. DC
  8. New Hampshire
  9. South Dakota
  10. Georgia

Read the above as residents in these locations have the highest degree of self reported happiness.

Happiness Positively Impacts The Bottom Line

Consider this statement published in the NY Times from Teresa Amabile, a professor at the Harvard Business School – “In a 2010 study, James K. Harter and colleagues found that lower job satisfaction foreshadowed poorer bottom-line performance. Gallup estimates the cost of America’s disengagement crisis at a staggering $300 billion in lost productivity annually. When people don’t care about their jobs or their employers, they don’t show up consistently, they produce less, or their work quality suffers.” 

Another publication talked about research findings from the American Psychological Association – Current American Psychological Association research findings show that people want contentment, love and happiness derived from meaningful work. They want nourishing personal relationships, a healthy mind and body, a spiritual core and a reason for living.”

If that isn’t enough, consider that a team of economists actually studied and established a link between worker happiness and their performance.  In an article about their findings, Andrew Oswald (the research team leader) was quoted as saying – “We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity.  Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings, while negative emotions have the opposite effect.”  They concluded from their research that – “If happiness in the workplace brings increased returns to productivity, then human resource departments, business managers and the architects of promotion policies will want to consider the implications.”


My take-away from everything I have read to date is – the greater the happiness of the residents in a location, the better the odds you have of hiring and retaining a happy workforce.  Therefore, to the extent happiness can improve your business P&L, why not preferentially locating your operations in places where residents are happier?

What Do The Data Tell You?

The ADCI data reflect the sentiment of residents.  If you think about it, these are the people in the best position to assess how easy it is to achieve their American Dream, and as a consequence their perspective is worth paying attention to.  Resident sentiment is measured through a validated questionnaire.  To produce the Report, the data collected from residents in each state throughout calendar 2013 have been compiled to create a 12-month snap shot.  The intent of the Report is to help economic development professionals and elected officials better understand where the state might have opportunities to better enable residents to achieve their American Dream.  This can be done by comparing one state’s dimension scores with other states that might be seen as competitive for capital investment or attraction of top talent.  It is important to note the data inform HOW residents are feeling, but do not explain the sentiment drivers behind WHY they feel that way.  Answering the WHY question requires additional local market research.

How Were The Dimensions Determined?

In general, the Xavier University team did an exhaustive literature review along with both qualitative and quantitative market research to identify an initial list of dimensions that make up the American Dream.  Questions or statements were generated to measure each dimension.  Then two separate large-scale quantitative studies were used to statistically validate and refine the questionnaire.  Finally, three nationally representative samples were used to validate the ADCI, and factor analysis was used to verify that each dimension was sound.  The result of all this work was 35 dimensions that are grouped into five statistically sound and validated sub-indexes.

more complete description of the process is available on the Xavier University website.

What Is Your State’s Ranking?

American Dream Duck Cover

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

2 Comments  |   Forward this to a friend Forward this to a friend   |   Number of emails sent: 545

Category Measures

Bookmark and Share

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

2 Responses to “In Which States Are Residents Happiest?”

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

By submitting a comment here you grant Strengthening Brand America a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate comments will be removed at admin's discretion.

SBA Blog