“Money Can’t Buy Happiness; It is Happiness”: A State-By-State Analysis

As Jack Donaghy summarized for us a couple of years ago, “Money can’t buy happiness; it is happiness!” But the amount of money that equals happiness — the salary point at which happiness plateaus, and earning more no longer makes you proportionally more satisfied or excited — varies from state to state. The Huffington Post has helpfully eaten this information, digested it, and excreted it in colorful map form, and also as a chart. You’re welcome!

Not surprisingly, in New York, New Jersey, California, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, an income of $75,000 won’t cut it. You don’t reach a happiness plateau in Hawaii until you make a whopping $122,000 a year. Isolation is expensive, I guess. DC comes in second at $104,000, meaning there are lots of grasping, unhappy strivers in the nation’s capital. I guess we knew that already. It’s not entirely a fair comparison, though, since DC is all city; if you judged California, New York, Illinois, Georgia, or even Texas entirely by their cities, their numbers would go way up too. Still, good to know if you’re thinking of working in government.

A mere $65,000 will buy you happiness in Mississippi, where plateaus come cheapest. Presumably though such a sum is harder to earn. (There’s the rub. There is always the rub.) New Mexico, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, and Louisiana all essentially tie, coming in at $70,000, so if you have to choose among those vastly different states, just roll a five-sided dice! Or figure out which state offers the most well-paying jobs.

Some surprises: Oregon is in the top 10, above Massachusetts. What’s up, Portlandia? How do you all get by slinging coffee, pickling things, and growing beards if you’re secretly such malcontents that your happiness doesn’t plateau until $91,000? By comparison, Washington State is a bargain at $76,900. If you’re choosing between Portland and Seattle, well, go Seahawks! And in Alaska happiness plateaus come very dear. Jeez. Who even makes $98,800 a year up there?