Governments' Lighter Side

Shiny happy people holding hands – New studies determine the happiest, friendliest places in the country

The pursuit of happiness isn’t just a sappy Will Smith movie. It is a goal so lofty, it was included in our nation’s Declaration of Independence. So where are people actually living the dream? Well, it’s mostly out west, with a few exceptions.

The University of Vermont studied the frequency of positive and negative words appearing in geolocated tweets across the country in 2011 to gauge different populations’ relative happiness, according to the Huffington Post.  The study found that socioeconomic factors such as poverty, unemployment and government resources influence the overall happiness.

The happiest states, according to the study, are Hawaii (duh), Maine, Nevada, Utah and Vermont. Most of the unhappiest states are below the Mason-Dixon line: Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware and Georgia.

The cities with the highest average scores were mainly concentrated in California and Colorado, with Spokane, Wash., Green Bay, Wis., and Ashville, N.C., being the exceptions, according to the study.

A similar study sought to gauge the friendliness of cities. A CondéNast Traveler reader’s poll asked subscribers to rate cities on a number of factors, including “friendliness.” Surprisingly, the area that ranked lowest on happiness was through the roof on friendliness – perhaps proving that the “Gone With the Wind” era of southern hospitality is not dead. All but three of the top ten friendliest cities were in the south.

The friendliest cities are:

  • Branson, Mo.
  • Sonoma, Calif.
  • Telluride, Colo.
  • Natchez, Miss.
  • Jackson, Miss.
  • Austin, Texas
  • Asheville, N.C.
  • Savannah, Ga.
  • Galena, Ill.
  • Charleston, S.C.

So, while the South may include some of American’s unhappiest states, it shows it values being friendly to its neighbors and guests.

Possibly, good pizza may have something to do with friendliness — at least with Austin and Charleston, whose Via 313 and EVO pizzerias respectively ranked on Thrillist’s Best Pizzas in the America list. We’d be friendly if we got to eat delicious pizza all the time.

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What's Governments' Lighter Side?

It is an irreverent take on local and state government news.


Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...
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