Research has found that people are happier when the government spends more money on libraries and parks…

A Baylor University study in the US found that people are happier in states where the government spends more on public goods, like libraries, parks, highways, natural resources and police protection.

Making communities more liveable and social

According to researcher Patrick Flavin, Ph.D., associate professor of Political Science in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, public goods spending makes communities “more liveable”, with more amenities.

“If roads are completed and kept up so that people aren’t stuck in traffic, they have more time to do things they enjoy doing. Large parks are social spaces – and one clear finding of happiness studies is that people who are more socially connected tend to be happier.”

Boosting home values

Another benefit of spending money on such amenities is that it generally boosts home values.

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“While higher property taxes generally accompany higher home values, it seems that the good outweighs the unfortunate part about having to pay higher taxes,” says Flavin.

Parks are social spaces – and one clear finding of happiness studies is that people who are more socially connected tend to be happier.

Study based on 30 years of surveys

In his study, Flavin analysed respondents’ self-reported levels of happiness from 1976 to 2006 from the General Social Survey, a representative sample of Americans that monitors social characteristics and attitudes of Americans.

Flavin also analysed detailed government spending data for states from the U.S. Census Bureau, for 1976 to 2006.

Neighbourhoods predict residents’ happiness

“We can look at the city where people live, their neighbourhoods, and see how public goods spending predicts happiness, after taking other important factors, such as marital status, health, education and income, into account,” says Flavin.

Flavin says it’s not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship between public goods and happiness.

“It could be that happier citizens self-select by moving to states that spend comparatively more on public goods. It also is possible that happier citizens support higher spending on public goods and elect state officials to deliver on that policy.”

Another benefit of spending money on such amenities generally boost home values.

Since living a happy and satisfying life is a nearly universal human goal, he predicts that better understanding of how policies concretely impact quality of life will receive increasing attention from researchers in years to come.

Source: Baylor University via

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