What do state governments do that actually increases the happiness of their citizens?


Recent decades have witnessed the development of an extensive social scientific research program on the determinants of life satisfaction. We examine the role of political factors in affecting quality of life in the context of the American states. In particular, we ask whether the choices made by voters, as manifested by the governments they elect, and the subsequent public policy regimes those governments establish, determine the degree to which individuals find their lives satisfying. We find that the different ideological and partisan orientations of state governments, as well as a state’s pattern of public policies, have strong effects on satisfaction with life, net of economic, social, and cultural factors. The more a state attempts to insulate citizens against market forces, the greater is satisfaction. The implications for American politics and our theoretical understanding of the mechanisms that determine quality of life are discussed.

Source: “The Politics of Happiness: On the Political Determinants of Quality of Life in the American States” from The Journal of Politics (2010), 72:894-905 Cambridge University Press

Freakonomics authors Levitt and Dubner explain why economists don’t vote at all.

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