Secret to Happiness, Solved: Go to College, Move West

What makes cities happy: high wages? high employment? highly creative people? The Atlantic's demographic expert Richard Florida poured through some data on his blog yesterday and concluded that the factor that correlated most highly with cities' self-reported happiness was ... percentage of college degrees. Does that mean, as Catherine Rampell offers, that education makes you happy?

Well, as Catherine and most everybody else know, causation is not correlation. Those who are more likely to attain bachelor degrees are also more likely to have come from parents with higher incomes, and cities with higher incomes also correlate strongly with happiness. Moreover, I have natural doubts about the reliability of self-reported happiness surveys, since quantifying happiness seems like a fraught exercise. But anyway, here's what Florida found:

Human Capital [measured as share of the population with a B.A. and above]: Happiness at the city or metro-level is more closely associated with human capital with a correlation of .68 - the strongest correlation of any of the variables we looked at. The scatter-graph below shows a fairly linear relationship.


The Economix blog earlier produced this map of the happiest states.


Gallup found that Hawaii, Utah and Montana were the happiest states. San Jose, CA, and Washington, DC, (woot!) turned out to be the happiest metro areas. There you have it, I guess: Get a bachelors degree and move to Salt Lake City. The secret of happiness solved. Eat your heart out, Plato.