Monday, February 22, 2010

Arlington, VA – The Land of Happiness and Riches?

happy_place Not only is Arlington one of the happiest places in the country, but it turns out it ranks as one of the five wealthiest too.  (Correlation or causation?)

Being a full-time student, I find myself temporarily in a low-income situation and can say there are many advantages to being a low-income person living in a high-income environment.  Plenty of benefits abound such as high levels of public safety, great public transportation, nice facilities such as parks and good libraries, easy access to world-class museums, quick snow removal, etc.  Despite my income being lower than it has ever been in my adult life, my rent is the highest ever.  And the benefits make it worth every penny living here.

This contains an important lesson for development.  It is far better to be a poor person in a rich country (like America) than a poor person in a poor country (like India or Haiti).  The differences in life outcomes can be orders of magnitude apart.

Recent happiness research has two findings that at first glance seem contradictory: 1) people in wealthier countries are happier than people in poorer countries; and 2) wealth doesn’t influence happiness much after passing a level that allows provision for a reasonable amount of food, shelter, security, etc.

For happiness, it seems it is far more important to live in a wealthy region than it is to be wealthy yourself.


thinking said...

One interesting point: many of the benefits listed, such as high levels of public safety, great public transportation, parks and libraries, snow removal...are all public goods supplied by the government.

Of course the rent is higher, in part because of having to pay for those public services...but they are worth it.

Of course govt cannot do it all or supply every need...but it does seem that good government that is active and functioning to meet some of the needs, makes for a better standard of living.

That may explain why many Europeans favor their culture, where they have more public services but at a higher rate of taxation. Sometimes the trade off is worth it.

Ali Hasanain said...

Greetings from Pakistan!

It is harder to be happy when you see the poor condition of the average person. Arlington is a great place to live, but I think the happiness stems from the insulation from the have-nots that is designed into affluent regions.

Anyway, hope you're well. Little time to log onto the net these days. Full report on the move soon (and I use that term very loosely!)