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At Last: A Map of Happiness
Yesterday, the New York Times profiled a project being run by the Scholar's Lab at the University of Virginia. Kelly Johnston, a geographic information systems specialist, created a series of maps that used Census Data to calculate the Jeffersonian ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The "life" map was made by color-coding areas of the country according to their life expectancy at birth statistics (the south, unfortunately, faired poorly in this area). The "liberty" map was made by color-coding areas according to their incarceration rates (not so free: Nevada, Texas, the panhandle of Florida and Colorado) The "pursuit of happiness" map, however, was based on "the ratio of arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments to the total population."
The Times suggested that low population numbers of Wyoming and Montana skewed their high happiness levels. But speaking without any authority whatsoever, I find the whole criteria a bit fishy. Arts, recreation and entertainment (ie: paintings, skiing, and a matinee showing of Planet of the Apes)? Yes, these things make us happy, but what about people who don't like those activities? Surely, these folks pursue happiness too.
After doing zero research and obtaining not a single Phd, I deeply believe that the only truly accurate measure of national happiness is...drumroll...ice cream. Have you ever met a person who didn't smile at a double-dip in a waffle cone with sprinkles? Even raw food people like it. And vegans, if it's sorbet. And people who slam the door on children shaking little boxes of change for UNICEF.
A map of the country's ice-cream parlors, ice-cream trucks, and restaurants serving the frozen dairy delicacy might give us a much clearer view of just how assiduously the nation is pursuing happiness. Then again, if people are eating ice cream, they may not have to pursue anything—they're already happy.
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