Posted at 8:00 am June 6, 2019, in Happiness

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New Brunswick and Madison, New Jersey (June 6, 2019) – Garden Staters may complain about the high cost of living in New Jersey, but overall, they’re pretty happy.

A joint survey from Rutgers University and Fairleigh Dickinson University finds that eight-in-ten New Jersey residents describe things in their life these days as happy, with one in five (21 percent) specifically saying “very happy”; another 60 percent say they are “pretty happy.” Just 19 percent describe themselves as either “not too happy” (16 percent) or “not happy at all” (3 percent). The New Jersey results are consistent with national polling on personal happiness.

Some New Jerseyans are much happier than others, however. While men and women are equally content, key factors like race, education, and income make a difference. White residents (23 percent “very,” 64 percent “pretty”) express greater happiness than either black residents (17 percent “very,” 62 percent “pretty”) or Hispanic residents (21 percent “very,” 50 percent “pretty”). New Jerseyans who are married are more likely to say they are “very happy” than those who are not married (26 percent to 16 percent).

Education also has some impact: 79 percent among those without a college degree say they are either “very” or “pretty” happy, versus 84 percent among those with a college degree or higher (88 percent among those who have done graduate work).

Happiness increases with household income. Those in households making under $50,000 annually are about half as likely as those in households making $150,000 or more to say they are “very happy” (14 percent versus 31 percent). Three in ten residents in the lowest income bracket say they are not happy (26 percent “not too happy,” 4 percent “not at all”), compared to less than one in five making between $50,000 and $100,000 and about one in ten making $100,000 or more.

“Happiness means different things to different people. But when the cost of living keeps going up, it’s not a surprise to see happiness appear elusive to those who are likely struggling the most to afford the basics,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of government at Fairleigh Dickinson University and director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll. “Even if money can’t directly buy happiness, it certainly helps.”

Political affiliation is also correlated with happiness. More than eight in ten Republicans and independents are happy (85 percent among independents, 82 percent among Republicans) compared to three-quarters (76 percent) of Democrats.

“Living in a state with one party Democratic rule isn’t casting much shade on Republicans or independents these days,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “But the reality is that these partisan differences are most likely picking up the different demographics that make up each party’s base. Lower income and non-white residents are more likely to be Democratic, while higher income and white residents are more likely to be Republican.”

Even how and when residents are asked about happiness has an impact on their responses. Those who were asked about their general happiness at the end of the survey are slightly more likely to say they are “very happy” than those asked at the beginning of the survey – 23 percent versus 19 percent. Respondents contacted for the survey interview by phone are also more likely to say they are either “very” or “pretty” happy (26 percent, 61 percent) than those contacted online (17 percent, 59 percent).

“Question order and survey mode can have a significant impact on how a respondent answers a survey question, noted both Koning and Jenkins. “Respondents can be influenced by the topics they have been asked about up until that point in the survey, the length of the survey, and by whether or not they are talking to a live interviewer.”

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