These states are happiest with their standard of living

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
July 29, 2020, 3:22 PM UTC

There is a clear correlation between household income and happiness with one's standard of living. 

According to YouGov data, satisfaction with living standards does get more likely as household income rises, but it appears to level off after the $200,000 mark, suggesting diminishing returns the more money one makes. 

However, money doesn’t always seem to equal happiness: nearly all states whose residents are most likely to say they are happy with their standard of living have median household incomes below the national average, according to the United States Census. Residents of these states are also either less likely to be worried or as worried as the rest of the country about serious personal financial issues because of the pandemic. 

Residents of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico, and Arizona are most likely to be happy with their standard of living, according to a survey of 60,886 Americans between July 2019 and July 2020.  

According to YouGov state-level data, three-quarters (75%) of North Dakota residents agree with the statement “I am happy with my standard of living. The midwestern state, whose resource-based economy has hinged on volatile oil prices, has seen a lower-than-national-average unemployment rate. While that number has increased during the COVID-19 crisis, it still is lower than the rest of the country. North Dakota also has a higher median household income than the rest of the United States. Ongoing data collected by YouGov regarding COVID-19 concerns shows a little more than half (56%) of North Dakotans are worried their finances will be severely impacted by the virus, which is in line with the rest of the country in general (54%).  

South Dakota has lower-than-average median household incomes, but lower unemployment than the rest of the country. Most (74%) of residents of the agricultural state say they’re happy with their standard of living. South Dakota’s financial worry around COVID-19 is roughly in line with the US in general, YouGov data shows. 

Most residents of Montana, also heavily dependent on oil, say they’re happy with their standard of living (74%). While median income falls below the national average, YouGov data shows Montana residents (46%) are less likely than the general US population to be worried about their finances or personal health because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Moving further southwest, 72 percent of residents of New Mexico say they’re happy with their standard of living. Trading higher incomes for warmer weather, New Mexico has a median household income below the national average, though its unemployment rate has generally been under the national figure. As the coronavirus-fueled recession takes hold, financial worry in New Mexico is line with the rest of the country. 

Next door, most residents of Arizona also seem pleased with their lot in life, with 71 percent saying they’re happy with their standard of living. The Grand Canyon State’s unemployment rate is slightly below that of the United States but has a median income below the national average. Despite that, Arizona residents (52%) are less likely than the country to be worried about their finances because of COVID-19. 

At the bottom end, residents of Kentucky (60%), Nevada (60%), Arkansas (59%), Rhode Island (58%), and Oklahoma (56%) are less likely to be happy with their living standards. 

Tell your own story with data from YouGov. Contact uspress@yougov.com for more about our datasets. 

Methodology: Standard of living data is based on a sample size of 60,886 US Adults aged 18+ who were asked their agreement level with the statement: “I am happy with my standard of living.” Response options: Definitely agree, tend to agree, neither agree nor disagree, definitely disagree. Responses were collected between July 2019 – July 2020. The responding sample is weighted to provide a representative sample of the United States. Financial worry is based on a sample size of 94,683 US Adults aged 18+ who were asked: “How much are you worried that each of the following might occur as a result of COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak? (That my finances will be severely affected) Response options: Very worried, fairly worried, not very worried, not at all worried, N/A - this does not apply to me, don’t know. Responses were collected between May – July 2020. The responding sample is weighted to provide a representative sample of the United States.