Americans' happiness is correlated with spending on public goods

Baylor University political scientist Patrick Flavin's forthcoming study in Social Science Research finds that people in states with higher public goods spending (on "libraries, parks, highways, natural resources and police protection") report higher levels of happiness.

It's not clear whether they are happier because they have better services, or whether people who choose to live in places where they don't have to pay for their neighbors' kids' education, parks, etc, are selfish, miserable fucks.

In his study, published in the journal Social Science Research, Flavin analyzed data on respondents' self-reported levels of happiness for 1976-2006 from the General Social Survey, a representative sample of Americans that monitors social characteristics and attitudes of Americans and is a project of the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago. Flavin also analyzed detailed government spending data for states from the U.S. Census Bureau for 1976-2006. Revenues to fund state public goods are raised from a combination of state taxes and transfers from the federal government to states, averaging 22.5 percent of total state revenues for that 30-year period.

"We can look at the city where people live, their neighborhoods, and see how public goods spending predicts happiness after taking other important factors, such as marital status, health, education and income, into account," Flavin said.

He also found that public goods spending has broad benefits across income, education, gender and race/ethnicity lines.

"Compared to a lot of the other government spending, public goods tend to be less controversial between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, compared to poverty assistance or unemployment benefits, where there is definite disagreement between political parties," Flavin said. "I think there is less political conflict over public goods spending simply because if they government doesn't provide them, they won't be provided at all."

State Government Public Goods Spending and Citizens’ Quality of Life [Patrick Flavin/Social Science Research]

Americans are happier in states that spend more on libraries, parks and highways [Eurekalert]

(via Late Stage Capitalism)