Bloomberg Ranks Most and Least Miserable States

Bloomberg has developed a more detailed approach to looking at “misery” than the traditional “misery index,” which looked only at unemployment and inflation. They took their more granular method and used it to rank states in the US. This looks like a reasonable and useful metric, so I wish they had written a story detailing their approach and publishing the full ranking, but this TV clip gives the high points. Some of their findings are intuitive (the Deep South scores badly), while some might strike readers as news (Minnesota is number 1):

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  1. TK421

    There’s too much drinking in Minnesota for people there to feel bad for long.

    Where can we get the full list? I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to see where their state ranks.

    1. F. Beard

      I saw a movie called “Lars and the Real Girl” set in Minnesota, I believe, that made we want to move there.

    2. Ned Ludd

      One store in the Twin Cities suburbs – Blue Max – has “about 1,100 brands” of beer. It’s smaller than a convenience store and has the feel of a small bookstore – narrow aisles stacked high with beer, wine, and spirits.

      1. sleepy

        Yeah, but unless I’m mistaken (and I live about 20 miles south of Minnesota in Iowa), you can’t buy alcohol in convenience stores in Minnesota, right?

        Come to Iowa where hard liquor is freely sold at gas stations.

        BTW–no knock on Minnesota–or Iowa for that matter–but I don’t find a whole lot of outward joie de vivre in the upper Midwest.

        1. Ned Ludd

          Everything stronger than 3.2% beer has to be sold in separate liquor stores. Gas stations could sell beer, wine, and liquor – but they would have to partition off an area of the store with its own staff, cash registers, and entrance (which could be a shared entrance). I don’t think any gas station does this, but plenty of grocery stores do, as does Costco.

          This is why Minnesota has lots of small retailers selling alcohol. The regulations level the playing field for small businesses. Consequently, you end up with more selection than you’d see if it was just large chains selling the lowest common denominator from Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller inbetween the potato chips and the orange juice.

          The above applies for cities that have private stores. Some cities have municipal liquor stores.

          1. sleepy

            Thanks for your reply. Didn’t know the details, just that on rare occasions when I’ve tried to buy beer in Minnesota, I found it hard to get–but this has been in small towns with restricted access and hours on the way to fishing trips.

        2. TK421

          “I don’t find a whole lot of outward joie de vivre in the upper Midwest”

          That’s pretty much true. Our ceiling is a little lower but our floor is a little higher, I’d say.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Having lived in Upper Michigan, which is culturally pretty similar (and has the same weather), it bears the strong imprint of its original settlers, Scandinavians, and that means hardworking, egalitarian, pragmatic, and not terribly materialistic. Also pretty tolerant. I met more working class intellectuals in the UP than I have in Manhattan.

    3. LucyLulu

      Recently I commented on Minnesota (for reasons not cited) having an exemplary state-funded health system as it relates to improved overall health outcomes.

      Are people in Minnesota happier because they are healthier…. thus not only feel better but are more employable, more productive, having higher incomes, reduced poverty, etc.? Even plantation owners knew it was cost-effective to keep their slaves healthy.

  2. Rehabber

    Yes the South is awful!! Stay away people from the east coast intellegentsia! You would compeletely ruin the place err .. be so miserable here! So stay away!

    1. ambrit

      Yes! We had more than enough of your Carpetbaggers and Damyanks. We aren’t called the birthplace of the Blues for nothing! So, we sent you Bill Clinton and the Neo Liberal gang as revenge. It worked too! Ever wonder why the Dems didn’t opt to put on their Dog and Pony show in Chicago this year? (Hint: It aint because the Board of Exchange is there.)

    2. jake chase

      Having lived in NY, New Hampshire, Mass and North Carolina, I will take NC for whatever I have left. For the summers you need a pool, but otherwise the weather’s perfect. Apart from weather, what matters most is population density. Happiness results from spreading them out and reducing driving time to an absolute minimum. Everybody seems pretty happy here, but of course those with more money are generally happier. If you come, bring it with you, because you can’t make any unless you build pools.

  3. Stephen Nightingale

    Is there a correlation with voting, say, Republican or Democrat? Quick view of the top and bottom 5 suggests there is.

      1. Keith

        Remember the studies comparing state average IQ to partisan voting patterns? This seems similar.

        I recommend checking out something called the Flynn Effect named after James Flynn. Flynn observed that people consistently did better on older IQ tests than those who took the tests in the past when they were devised. People weren’t really getting dramatically smarter with each generation so he started to wonder what was going on. What he came to think is that IQ is a measure of a certain kind of abstract thinking.

        It would make sense that if you have a bigger proportion of your population that is capable of abstract or “modern thinking” then your per capita productivity would be higher. This matches up with the fact that per capita wealth and productivity also predict the tendency of a state to vote D or R.

        Here is a link to an article about Flynn:

        I don’t know about a correlation with misery and voting Republican, but I do know there is a correlation with a certain way of thinking about things.

        1. Min

          “People weren’t really getting dramatically smarter with each generation so he {Flynn} started to wonder what was going on.”

          The Flynn effect isn’t all that dramatic, either.

          “What he came to think is that IQ is a measure of a certain kind of abstract thinking.”

          IQ is a curious thing. It does not really mean general intelligence. It is related to the ability to do college work, so abstract thinking sounds pretty good. It’s related to reaction times, too, so go figure. I have heard the opinion that the Flynn effect is largely the result of better general health.

  4. sleepy

    I disagree with these types of rankings, at least when objective metrics are used to rank subjective attitudes such as “misery”.

    I wish to god I had saved it, but a year or two ago I read a ranking of US cities based on “happiness”, where they actually asked residents about their interpersonal relationships, family closeness, attitudes toward life, etc.

    The happiest city residents were from New Orleans, which would frequently be listed at the bottom by most economic criteria.

    The second happiest city was Memphis. While not ranked at the absolute bottom economically, it is certainly far, far closer to it than, say, Boston which was ranked as an “unhappy” city.

    I’m not downplaying economics and health at all. Just saying that “happiness” may be a difficult outcome to determine based on those metrics.

      1. sleepy

        Hey, I don’t know if Boston is really unhappy or not, and I was not criticizing the city at all, just ruminating on these kinds of surveys.

    1. Nathanael

      New Orleans is nowhere *near* the bottom in most of these rankings. (The rest of Louisiana drags down the state ranking.)

      Mississippi, now that does score rock bottom consistently.

      I think being the center of plantation slavery created a sick culture which has never been properly cleaned up.

    2. aneuman

      You are absolutely correct.
      I would like to offer Bloomberg’s analysts to suck my (Minnesota born and nationally raised, thank you very much,) cajones with this sort of drivel.
      Minnesota is actually a miserable place, and a few people find a relative amount of balance and the associative “happiness,” because as humans we are subject to the laws of reality, light and dark, good and bad, pros and cons. Both and not either or.
      In reality, life happens, as it always has and always will, and ‘misery,’ is also present.
      One of the reasons this Minnesota man is miserable, in fact, is because of the disgusting amount of New Yorkers who are relocating here like consumer zombies, hoping for some kind of Israel of Scandinavian values in the U.S.
      Well, we do have those, but they are because of our families who have lived here and created the communities and memories over the past 300 years, over tears and laughter.
      You cant find it in the tacky post modern condos you are tearing up trees to build your crap fart boxes over here, with your tacky love of Design within reach and your retarded dwell magazine influenced ideas of living.

      Minnesota is not Portland or Oregon and never will be. It is not some sleepy place waiting to be discovered for its joy like a renee zellwegger film. That type of schtick is impossible anywhere. = in New York, in Hawaii, in Arizona, and in Minnesota.

      The problem with gentrification is what makes Minnesota miserable. The idea that somehow, more money, and more of the values and ideals of those with it making a better place is absurd.
      Egalitarian values that were implemented to cure social strife is one thing, but the Somali population is still the same screwed up problem in Minnesota that they were in Africa.
      Minnesota has some crazy ghetto people too, Chicago over pour that roams rampant in the streets and sells coke to all the jilted high school kids.
      My point is, these types of reports are bunk.
      America and its ranking and rugged individualism are the cause of misery, EVERYWHERE.
      It was always a wealthy place, the planet. It was people and their bull&hit that made it miserable.

      And until people stop looking for the next best thing by invading the pretty house someone else set up, they will never find happiness.
      Also, just an FYI, MN might look like the gingerbread house, but hansel and gretel beware.
      You WILL end up in the witches oven.
      Course where Im from we still believe in those old Norse myths.
      Another FYI~
      Im one of those great northern mullatos, so dont you dare go assuming Im some freak racist toothless N. Dakota yokel.
      Nope, I just want us to have what is ours by birthright without Ben Bernanke and all his demons digging their cashed out Hamptons wanderlust in on foreign lands. Do us all a favor and stay where you are and plant a permaculture garden for christs’ sake.

  5. CLAJR

    Wonder how Bloomborgians would rank themselves. I hear it’s a pretty miserable place to work.(Hence, the Bloom Borg.)

  6. briansays

    sf bay area is still unaffected by this nonsense
    not too hot
    water supply fine
    not overbuilt with too many houses
    winning football and baseball teams
    Americas’s Cup coming up

    but y’all stay away
    more people=declining quality of life
    unless its as a tourist

    1. LucyLulu

      Loce, love, love the Bay area. It’s gorgeous, never gets hot, and for somebody who has lived in plain vanilla places most her life, has wonderful unique diversity in every nook and cranny. It’s easy to see how it was the home of the hippies and flower children of the 60’s. But if you want to own your own (freestanding) home there, you need to be loaded…… Last time I was there, they started at $1M. The homes in the park at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge would be an incredibly cool place to live.

    2. neo-realist

      As a tourist, nice weather, culture and the most kick ass record store I’ve ever been to–Amoeba in the Haight, but like NYC, it seems like a happy city to live in if you’ve got $$$$.

      1. DANNYBOY

        Dear neorealist,

        Don’t write-off NYC as only for the rich. Our family has been happy here for generations, none rich. Modest means are ok, just skip the flash and glitz (Won’t miss much.). Use Public Schools, Rent Regulation, …

        1. neo-realist

          If you’re fortunate enough for that last caveat, NYC is certainly a happier place, particularly if you have a regulated or rent controlled place in Manhattan. I am certainly happy as a tourist returning to the hometown–cherry pick your pleasures.

          Plus, no riding the sardine packed subways every day like the working schmoes who live there.

          1. Brian M

            Because driving thirty miles each way on a frightening freeway from a bland Texas subdivision to an even blander “office park” is such a superior way to live.

  7. citalopram

    I love it. Voters in the deep south vote for inequality, and the end result is that they’re miserable! They dug their own grave and are too stupid to see it.

    1. ambrit

      Dear citalopram;
      We down here often debate about just what came first, the inequality or the misery. For a pretty good analysis of the “Southern Experience,” try some Faulkner, or Eudora Welty, or Flannery O’Connor, but not Margaret Mitchell.

  8. rjs

    northeastern ohio is pretty miserable 5 months of the year…it is a poor choice of a place to have built a civiliztion…

    i cant imagine someone with more winter than we have being bettter off…

    1. LucyLulu

      Just because a place has more winter doesn’t mean it has less sun. Unlike the Cleveland area, there are days where the sun shines during the winter in other northern cities.

    1. ambrit

      And the question is: “Name the state that has the highest percentage of its college graduates leave to find work.”

  9. CB

    Measured by economic/financial means Louisiana is indeed miserable but measured by cultural means it has a higher rating than most other areas. Measuring life is difficult to calibrate for meaninful results.

  10. Cecirdr

    We’re number one! We’re number one!


    I moved back to MS (don’t ask, it *was* under duress) after living in the rest of the country for 20 years. Other than a few pockets of “civilization” in a few cities, the deep south feels like a third world country within the US to me.

    1. F. Beard

      And a police state as well. The only police checkpoints I ever encountered were in MS.

      And racist and generally hateful. And they wonder why the hurricanes strike them?

      It’s not everyone, mind you, but a significant minority.

  11. TimR

    People seem to be accepting this too uncritically — maybe you like to have your biases confirmed?

    I won’t try to defend the south (for one thing I haven’t lived/experienced much outside it – unfortunately.) But those knocking it as “sick” (among other comments) might consider the “sickness” of the dominant northern states and which is the greater of the two. I have not delved into the literature that much, but I understand there is a school of thought that the north not only stamped out the bad in southern culture, but also much that was good. In effect the South was colonized by the North, and treated somewhat as the US has treated its other subjugated peoples. This is one of those invisible realities that people are so familiar with they can’t see it, and even participate in it themselves, as in comments here. I understand (though I have not read it) that Morris Berman’s latest book “Why America Failed” devotes a chapter to the South as part of an alternative tradition in American culture that has been suppressed – though as he says it requires the nuance to see that a culture that practiced slavery could nevertheless be “better” than the north in other areas.

  12. Michael

    Anyone else notice that the most miserable states & countries are the most religious? Denmark has been named as having the happiest people in the world, and they’re an atheist majority.

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