The Wall Street Journal and NBC News recently conducted a poll, part of an annual series that seeks to determine how Americans rank in terms of happiness.
“Money may not buy love, but it seems to buy happiness,” the Journal concluded, finding that wealth was the single biggest factor in distinguishing between the happy and non-happy in the survey of 496 people.
Don’t believe it. First of all, the survey was all over the map: Retirees, Hispanics and Americans in the Western U.S. came out happiest; Southerners and impoverished Americans headed the miserables list.
Might it have been cool and overcast in Atlanta while L.A. was bathed in sunshine the day the survey was conducted? Might the survey size be too paltry to make statistical inferences for so many groups of Americans?
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(The results zig-zagged quite a bit, with Americans over 65 the happiest while the least happy were the adjacent category of 50- to 64-year-olds.)
There are surveys about everything, and some are well done while others are poorly designed. A good rule of thumb is to treat skeptically any survey whose results fly against common sense (which typically, though not always, corresponds to reality).