The Happiness Index

Listen / Download

The quantifiers of contentment in America say that boom times or not, America just isn’t that happy.

The social scientists say, it’s not just the economy, stupid. It’s child poverty, affordable housing, crime, and access to health care. The well-being watchers use stats like those to assess how good we feel; they call the sum a social index.

But a social index can use all kinds of indicators. Arch-conservative Bill Bennett’s index, for instance, gives great weight to divorce rates, births out of wedlock, and church attendance.

Tuscon plans to count the number of pedestrians because people feel safer and happier when there are other people on the street.

Traverse City Michigan tracks of bird and frog species; the people are happy if the Great Lake is healthy, the reasoning goes.

So how do you gauge your contentment? In good food or junk food, movie time or work out time – your social index in this hour.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Alan Wolfe and Juliet Schor.