A Vote for Happiness

While looking at some data that compared Minnesota and Indiana I learned about the Happiness Index.

More precisely the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is an index that is composed of six areas of a happy, healthy life. The areas are life evaluation, physical health, healthy behaviors, work environment, emotional health, and basic access. The index has been compiled for six years with 2013 the latest year that has been published.

Spoiler alert Indiana doesn’t fair well in the Happiness Index. Minnesota ranked 4th happiest and Indiana was 40th.

On a more local note the index ranks the 434 Congressional Districts. Our own district, IN-2 came in 388th, that is comfortably in the bottom 20% of the nation. The report can be read at Wellbeing .

Remember Minnesota? The state that elected Jesse Ventura governor and Al Franken to the US Senate. The home state of Lake Wobegon and International Falls (the coldest spot in the lower 48 states). The North Star state where wolves and bears roam wild.

How can they be happier than Hoosiers? We are in the Eastern time zone, well most of us anyway. Sure there are a couple of Hoosiers on Central time but their entire state is on slow time. Minnesota has played class basketball since 1971. Neither state allows carry-out sales of alcohol on Sunday. While Mr. Pence doesn’t think Minnesota is part of the midwest, most people do. We can’t be that different.

Turns out there are a couple of differences.

First it is important to look at the total population for the two states. Indiana is the 16th largest state by population with 6.5 million residents, Minnesota ranks 21st with 5.4 million. This is one of the few rankings that the two states are only separated by a few places.

The latest unemployment numbers, 3.7% for Minnesota the fifth lowest in the country. 5.7% for Indiana, 23rd in the nation. Per capita income also favors Minnesota $46,227 ranked 11th vs $36,902 39th for the Hoosiers.

Taxes? State and Local taxes in Minnesota are 7.19% and 7.00% for Indiana. Corporate tax rates for the two states are 9.8% for Minnesota, 7.5% for Indiana. Minnesota pays 6.875% sales tax, Indiana 7%, that is $1.25 per hundred dollars not a large difference.

Okay so fewer unemployed making more per capita even if they are taxed higher equals happier electorate. That doesn’t sound like anything I hear coming out of Indianapolis.

I hear a lot of talk of education reforms. The numbers for Minnesota, 15.8 students per teacher, $50,360 average teacher pay, 88.2% graduation rate, 7.2% students in limited English Proficient Programs, $10,686 dollars spent per student in public education. Indiana has 16.7 students per teacher, $46,640 average teacher pay, 77.2% graduation rate, 4.9% are in limited-English Proficient Programs and spends $9,256 per pupil in public education.
Minnesota only educates 839,738 students compared to Indiana’s 1,040,765. But they do it in 489 more schools in 45 more districts. Is that more non-teaching jobs also? While I can’t answer that question I can’t compare school voucher laws either, Minnesota doesn’t have one. The other thing Minnesota doesn’t have is state minimum school year length, 180 days for Indiana.

But does smaller class sizes in smaller schools with higher paid teachers graduating a high percentage translate to better schools? The bottom line is yes. In Minnesota 264.9/1000 students had a score of 25+ on the ACT or a 1780+ on the SAT, 155.1 for Indiana. 70.9% of students in Minnesota go on to some level of College, 65.8% for Indiana. 8th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress Scores: 295 Math, 271 Reading for Minnesota – 288 Math, 267 Reading for Indiana. The US averages for that assessment is 284 Math and 266 Reading.

To be fair the Happiness Index is about more than jobs,income and education. Although these topics seem to be the focus of our Indiana legislators. It is largely skewed toward healthy lifestyles and healthcare.

First Minnesota has a state run healthcare exchange and has chosen to expand Medicaid with federal funding unlike Indiana that let the federal government run the exchange and has as of yet not expanded medicaid. The results? Both have expanded the previously uninsured, Minnesota slightly more 227,919 to Indiana’s 192,674. But in completely opposite ways. Minnesota signed up 48,495 thru their state run exchange and 179,424 on federally funded Medicaid. Indiana signed up 132,423 on the federally run exchange and 60,251 on the jointly funded Medicaid.

Mental health is also an important part of the index. More of the same for Indiana. Minnesota expanded spending in the period from 2009-2012 7%, spending $150.18 per capita ranking 16th in the nation. Indiana in the same period decreased spending -2% to $81.73 per capita ranking 33rd. Minnesota spent a total of $797 million vs Indiana’s $530 million.

The average yearly income of family practitioners came as a small surprise to me. Minnesota family doctors earn $184,000 per year. Indiana family doctors average $188,000 per year. One reason for this maybe that there are 2420 family practitioners in Minnesota vs 1940 in Indiana. That equates to .90 doctors/1000 residents in Minnesota vs .68/1000 in Indiana.

The nation as a whole is losing the battle of the bulge. I thought going in these numbers would be closer but with increased income comes increases in healthy food and exercise. Self reported obesity rates among the two states is 25.5% Minnesota with 31.8% for Indiana. More family practitioners, less obesity and greater access to health insurance will make a lot of people happy.

One last area of comparison that is only slightly touched on in the index but is a part of a couple of the indicators is crime or perceived safety. While crime numbers are steadily declining nationwise and these two states are no exception, it is somewhat problematic to compare the two as they use two different reporting methods. A couple areas that can be compared are crimes reported per 100,000 residents and murder rates.

Minnesota crimes per 100,000 is 1210 ranking them 17th in the nation. Indiana ranks 26th with 1556/100,000. Murder rates are a bigger disparity, Minnesota ranks 42nd with 2.1. Indiana ranks 14th with 5.4. Indiana is a death penalty state, Minnesota is not.

It was at this point in my comparison that I realized that continuing to look at these numbers would only hurt my district’s Well-Being Index, something I am sure Jackie Walorski is deeply troubled about. This is also when I wondered if the likes of Jesse Ventura or Al Franken could get elected to any office in Indiana. Perhaps the business of governing is business. After all can you name a business that cuts spending, cuts investment, cuts revenue and provides less services on its way to success?