What Makes People Happy in the Happiest States?

By Albert Brea and Kevin R. Convey

What is happiness?

And, more importantly, what are the elements of happiness – the things that make us happy?

These are hardly idle questions. Since the beginning of civilization, they have occupied philosophers, formed the basis of religions and bedeviled leaders of every stripe. More recently, they’ve animated the hit parade, crowded best-seller lists and kept the waiting rooms of mental health professionals overflowing.

Indeed the most common answer to one of life’s most elemental questions – “Why are we here?” – is “to be happy.” Still, that answer begs the question: What goes into making us happy?

As we enter what for some is the happiest time of the year – featuring, in rapid succession, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day – and what for others is the gloomiest period of the year, the subject of happiness and its components takes on renewed interest.

Every year, the Gallup Organization conducts a detailed poll on the subject of happiness in the United States, measuring dozens of variables and producing a portrait of happiness by state. We wanted to know how the age-old metrics of health, wealth, and wisdom –-Ben Franklin’s “healthy, wealthy and wise” nostrum correlated with happiness by state. And though Franklin didn’t mention it, we were also curious about the role religion plays in happiness.

Here’s how we visualized those questions — and our answers:

What Makes People Happiest in the Happiest States

So, clearly, Ben Franklin was right about some of the components of happiness: Our measures of health, wealth and wisdom correlated strongly with states’ happiness as ranked by Gallup.

And it’s fortuitous that a tacked-on question we almost didn’t ask because Franklin didn’t ask it – the impact of religion on happiness – tied our findings up nicely.

Our discovery that states with the highest numbers of religious residents tended to score low on the happiness index seemed counter-intuitive until we examined it in the context of our earlier findings. Presto: The most religious states ox iframe link:were also largely states that ranked low on measures of health, wealth and wisdom.

The exact relationship of religion to this package of negative variables remains as unclear as the chicken-and-egg conundrum. Do people living in states afflicted by low health, employment and education indicators seek out religion for solace or do more deeply religious tend to be less healthy, less employed and less educated?

That’s one that even Franklin might have a tough time with.

The Happiness Project

By Alberto Brea and Kevin R. Convey

What is happiness?

And, more importantly, what are the elements of happiness – the things that make us happy?

These are hardly idle questions. Since the beginning of civilization, they have occupied philosophers, formed the basis of religions and bedeviled leaders of every stripe. More recently, they’ve animated the hit parade, crowded best-seller lists and kept the waiting rooms of mental health professionals overflowing.

Indeed the most common answer to one of life’s most elemental questions – “Why are we here?” – is “to be happy.” Still, that answer begs the question: What goes into making us happy?

As we enter what for some is the happiest time of the year – featuring, in rapid succession, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day – and what for others is the gloomiest period of the year, the subject of happiness and its components takes on renewed interest.

Every year, the Gallup Organization conducts a detailed poll on the subject of happiness in the United States, measuring dozens of variables and producing a portrait of happiness by state. We wanted to know how the age-old metrics of health, wealth, and wisdom –-Ben Franklin’s “healthy, wealthy and wise” nostrum correlated with happiness by state. And though Franklin didn’t mention it, we were also curious about the role religion plays in happiness.

The Happiness Project

So, clearly, Ben Franklin was right about some of the components of happiness: Our measures of health, wealth and wisdom correlated strongly with states’ happiness as ranked by Gallup.

And it’s fortuitous that a tacked-on question we almost didn’t ask because Franklin didn’t ask it – the impact of religion on happiness – tied our findings up nicely.

Our discovery that states with the highest numbers of religious residents tended to score low on the happiness index seemed counter-intuitive until we examined it in the context of our earlier findings. Presto: The most religious states were also largely states that ranked low on measures of health, wealth and wisdom.

The exact relationship of religion to this package of negative variables remains as unclear as the chicken-and-egg conundrum. Do people living in states afflicted by low health, employment and education indicators seek out religion for solace or do more deeply religious tend to be less healthy, less employed and less educated?

That’s one that even Franklin might have a tough time with.

SOURCES:

http://www.livescience.com/18670-happiest-states-2011-revealed-poll.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/05/08/sunday/main20060870.shtml

http://www.adherents.com/people/pf/Benjamin_Franklin.html

http://www.americashealthrankings.org

http://psychcentral.com/news/2006/11/07/happiness-enhances-health/392.html

http://www.bls.gov/lau/

http://www.science20.com/positive_psychology_digest/happiness_and_wealth

http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/p20-566.pdf

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/08/does-wisdom-bring-happiness-or-vice-versa/260949/

http://www.pewforum.org/How-Religious-Is-Your-State-.aspx

http://epiphenom.fieldofscience.com/2011/12/moderate-believers-might-benefit-from.html

And…

Our Spreadsheet

Due Oct 31: Rough Drafts

A rough draft does not have to have the polish of a final project, but it should be close. You should have created the visualizations that you plan to use. Your classmates should be able to evaluate a rough draft on its merits, without a guided tour of forthcoming features.

A complete rough draft includes:
+ Clean data in spreadsheets, already normalized, sorted, manipulated
+ Visualizations of the data with labelled axes
+ Captions
+ Credits
+ A headline
+ At least three links to other reporting that puts your story in a broader context.
+ Introductory text that includes information gleaned from at least one human source.

Note: you’re not required to quote your source, but you do need to be able to tell the class what insights your human source provided.

Oct 24

GUEST SPEAKER: WNYC’s John Keefe
John Keefe, who leads the data news team at WNYC, will come talk about some of his data projects. Great posts to dive in with include:

+ Mapping campaign donations against districts
+ More campaign donations
+ Coastal Evacuation Map
+ AP Election Data
+ Live Election Data

STORYBOARDS:

Revise your pitch and add a wireframe/storyboard that reflects the planned layout. We use wireframe and storyboards synonymously here. We’re looking for a simple sketch (on paper, in Word, or PowerPoint, or any number of online storyboarding tools) that tells us how you intend to integrate your visualizations, words, and navigation elements.

A storyboard organizes your content conceptually and spatially. Use simple boxes to represent where your different elements are positioned in a design, and how the user navigates through the content. Here are Mark Luckie’s thoughts on sketching/storyboarding, with examples, from 10,000 Words a few year’s back.

DESIGN ASSIGNMENT:

Your assignment is to re-design one of three existing data visualizations listed below. Identify the visualization and/or design weaknesses and explain your improvements.

We’re not interested in a perfect remapping of the data, but just your overall approach of how your data viz would appear with the same set of data. Your sketch will be just an approximate of the existing data.

Deliverable: sketch on paper, preferably scanned to be submitted on WordPress and for potential presentation, but we understand if you do not have easy access to a scanner, so we will accept the hard copy.

The Atlantic: Classified Documents
Good: Teacher Salaries
National Geographic: High School Foreign Exchange

(Thanks to Jeff Heer of Stanford for design examples)

Pitch by Alberto Brea and Kevin Convey

Data-Driven Journalism

Pitch for The Happiness Project:

Healthy, Wealthy, Wise (and, maybe, Sexy)

Alberto Brea and Kevin Convey

17 October 2012

Pitch/Question/Hypothesis

 

 

Every year, the Gallup Organization conducts the largest poll on the subject of happiness in the United States, measuring dozens of metrics and producing a happiness heat map of the states. We want to know how the age-old metrics of health, wealth, wisdom – and, we hope, sexual satisfaction, and possibly religious belief – correlate with happiness by state.

 

 

Why this subject and why now?

 

The subject of happiness – why we’re happy, why we’re not, and how we can achieve, intensify and maintain our happiness – is of perennial interest around the world. It sells millions of books, magazines and television shows every year. As we enter what for some is the happiest time of the year – featuring, in rapid succession, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day – and what for others is the gloomiest, coldest, darkest period of the year, the subject of happiness takes on renewed interest and newsworthiness.

 

 

The Data

 

 

We begin, of course, with the basic happiness index Gallup prepares for the states:

http://www.livescience.com/18670-happiest-states-2011-revealed-poll.html

To that, we add August’s unemployment figures as the latest relative indicator of statewide wealth: http://www.bls.gov/lau/ and/or per capita income figures by state: http://bber.unm.edu/econ/us-pci.htm

Next, a measure of relative health by state: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/Rankings

Next, the U.S. Census tabulation of educational attainment, looking specifically at either the rate of attainment of a bachelor’s or high school degree by state. http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/education/educational_attainment.html

And, finally – we hope – a measure of sexual activity or sexual satisfaction by state, from data yet to be discovered. One starting point could be the birth rate by state: http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=35&cat=2

 

Failing that – or perhaps in addition to it – we may examine a correlation between happiness and religious affiliation and/or practice:

http://religions.pewforum.org/reports

Most of the data above we have already spread-sheeted in Excel. It remains only to map/graph/chart it.

Potential Sources

 

We’ve already corresponded with the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at the University of Indiana and the Kinsey Institute in an effort to locate the sexual satisfaction statistics we’re looking for. We’ll also discuss our overall findings with a demographic expert at the Pew Center and a psychologist and/or sociologist, both of whom should be easy enough to contact via the phone or email to help us put our findings into context and perspective.

 

Presentation

 

We plan to present our findings as a series of maps and/or charts organized in a Hype/Tumult slideshow.