A recently released study by the CDC lists states in order by how happy their residents say they are. Some news stories have been quick to point out that lots of the ‘happy’ states are conservative and/or religious as well, and that the unhappy states are predominantly liberal.
That sort of thinking is just typical news media trickery though: it’s tempting to infer causation from correlation, but there are so many other factors that can lead to these sorts of results that it’s foolish to try to make any quick-and-dirty ‘conclusions’ from these sorts of “facts”.
Maybe this just proves people from these states are more likely to lie about their happiness, or we could point to an inverse correlation of average temperature as a prime culprit.
To indulge a bit in such silly speculation myself, I noticed that there seems to be a strong inverse correlation between this list of happiness, and the U.S. Census ranking of states by median income level.
I took a look at the 2-Year Average Medians document, and saw that 7 of the top 10 states in happiness are in the BOTTOM 15 by income, and that 6 of the Top 10 states by income are also in the 15 LEAST happy states. Only Hawaii bucked the trend by being in both lists’ Top 10.
So, can we conclude that poorer people are happier, and that money definitely does not buy happiness?
This argument is just as facile as any assumption that correlation indicates causation, and should be taken with a whole shaker full of salt, but, it does make you wonder.