The map below shows people’s happiness levels in the United States: red means most unhappy, yellow is neutral, blue is most happy. As you can see, the biggest area of unhappiness is in Indiana and Kentucky, right around where Louisville is. But more so, there’s a kind of concentric pattern to the entire map.
Around Indiana and Kentucky, there’s a circle of mostly orange in which lie Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, West Virginia and Ohio: level two of the inferno. Around that, there’s another circle that’s on average happier — mostly oranges and yellows, some greens, but also some reds: Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New England.
Finally, there’s the happy outer rim, the thick fourth level which is mostly blues and greens: the entire Rockies from the Dakotas and Montana down through Colorado and New Mexico to Texas and rest of the South. If you kept going, you could imagine the ring continuing in the Atlantic, looping around through Canada — upper Quebec and Ontario — before meeting itself at the US border again.
Things go downhill again on the west coast, but there’s too little data there to say what’s going on. Perhaps that’s a small part of a larger ring that goes through Mexico and the Caribbean, the mid-Atlantic and the Northwest Passage. Or perhaps that ring is mostly yellow because happiness levels, having reached a peak in the fourth circle of (un)happiness started to go down again. Or maybe, we’re looking at the third ring of a different epicenter of unhappiness, colliding with the American one. Reading tea leaves is not easy.
The happiness data comes from a survey conducted by the CDC between 2005 and 2009. The researchers that created the map are from Harvard and the University of British Columbia.
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