Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Why is well-being important to AI?

Whether your work is in community development, well-being, or Artificial Intelligence (AI), the link between these fields might not be immediately clear. The goal of this short essay is to provide a perspective for why the work on well-being is critically important for the field of AI and therefore the need to bridge the gap between these epistemological frames.

As I type these characters on my clunky device, as you read these words, without a doubt I think we will both agree on one thing - time is passing. How we spend our time has a remarkable impact on our lives and the lives of everyone around us. Sitting in a Deep Learning class at Stanford, CA in 2016, I remember the prominent AI professor Andrew Ng speaking to Time as our most important resource when developing an AI algorithm. Deep Learning is a branch of AI which has to do with pattern recognition - the ability of a computer program to learn to recognize patterns in large amounts of data. Deep Learning algorithms have given rise to some of the biggest success stories in AI through solving problems related to image recognition, language generation and processing, and others. 

Back in 2016, I was a working as a Senior Machine Learning engineer at an innovation lab in the Bay Area and had spent several years trying to solve complex problems through developing AI algorithms. I was constantly learning through trial and error and actively challenging the traditional approach to algorithm design which I was taught in University by questioning what is the best use of our time as AI engineers. To me, the answer to that question has always been related to our ability to envision the end goal and multidimensional impacts of the AI algorithms we are working on. 

Oftentimes engineers are part of large and highly specialized teams which work on specific components of complex technologies. Existing organizational culture and structure incentivize speed and complexity which make it challenging and often impossible for an individual engineer to understand the larger so-called socio-technical context of their work - the social implications of the technical work they are doing. Asking the question “What is the best use of my time?” invites us to question our motivation for the work we are doing. For example, some of the challenges in designing AI algorithms stem from the business need to create systems that work at scale. Traditionally, the main metric for success is the so called ability of an AI model to generalize i.e. to perform the task it was developed for in new contexts which differ from the development context. To solve for that, engineers often need to make tradeoffs in deciding what experiments will allow them to learn the most about how the AI algorithm they are developing will behave in unseen and dynamic real world contexts. For example, should they collect more data on which to test their algorithm, what kind of data should they collect, should they modify the parameters of the AI algorithm, what algorithm should they try next, etc. It is often easier to solve a problem in a context we are familiar with. This, however, may lead us to forget the complexity of the real world impact of the systems we develop and instead see that impact reduced to numerical AI optimization errors we are trying to minimize. 

By keeping present our deep motivation for the work we are doing, we have an opportunity to see how AI changes the fundamental nature of human experience. Seeing ourselves as participants in that change helps us realize our responsibility for the visible and invisible ways in which the work we do impacts the well-being of people and other beings. Understanding AI impacts is perhaps beyond the cognitive capacity of any single individual and therefore invites us to seek collaborations especially with people from interdisciplinary fields. Adopting a well-being lens in the work on AI holds a promise to bring more clarity, integrity, and response-ability that could enable us to collaboratively design systems that are better aligned with our individual and broader societal values.

Guest post by Bogdana Rakova, Member of the Board of Directors of the Happiness Alliance

Read more about AI and Well-being in the Special Issue: Intersections of Artificial Intelligence and Community Well-Being

Friday, November 20, 2020

How to Survive the Holidays

How to Survive the Holidays 
save this post - share it too

For most of us, thoughts of the holidays bring a mixture of memories and expectations. Times when we gathered with our dear ones in a warm house full with sweet smells and open hearts. Hopes and plans to make this year’s holidays full of love, care and peace.  What makes the holidays so special is they are a time of gathering together with those near and dear to our hearts but often far from our daily lives.  What makes the holidays so difficult in any year is matching those hopes and expectations with reality. 

With the pandemic, this year our reality is quite horrible. We are being robbed of our hopes, expectations and opportunities to have the most important part of the holidays. We are now seeing how much we have taken as granted all our lives. It’s a big deal, and it will have an impact on all of us. 

One of the secrets of the happiness movement is that it is not all about happiness. It is as much about misery and unhappiness because in order to be happy – as an individual or as a community, you have to heal your misery. We wanted to share some of the ways we are getting ready for the holidays. Here are three tips for surviving the holidays. 

Grieve your loss

Covid-19 is the ultimate grinch. It has taken so much from us already, and now it’s taking our holidays. It is making it unsafe for use to do what we humans have done throughout history – gathering at special times to prepare food and share it with each other, sing songs, exchange news and gifts, unwind and enjoy each other. 

The grief process is the way that we come to terms with something we cannot change and do not want. Grief allows us to accept the unacceptable. When we process our grief, we find silver linings. This is called resiliency. We process our grief through feeling our emotions and talking about them with another person who accepts who we are and does not judge us.  

Grief comes in waves of emotion, some tsunami-sized, some tiny ripples. You already know the stages of grief as denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance. You already know that the waves do not necessarily come in order and are often jumbled together. You can process grief at one point, then find you are doing it all over again. It takes time to process grief.  

When we do not process our grief, feelings come out sideways. Take anger for instance. It is normal to be angry at Covid-19 and its spread, but it does not make sense. So perhaps you stuff your anger. You may find that you are irritable and unreasonable with people or in situations that would normally not bother you, even getting annoyed at someone who is trying to help you. You may find yourself raging - and fully convinced that the object of your rage deserves all of your hate - when it’s not normal for you to indulge in temper tantrums. Perhaps you are spending an inordinate amount of time obsessing or seething over something that happened in the past or someone who is not really that big a part of your life. These are just a few ways that the anger can come out sideways. 

Turning your back on your sadness can also come out sideways. Feelings do not go away if you ignore them.  Sadness ignored can fester into anxiety or depression. “She drowns in those uncried tears” is the way Annie Lamott describes being stuck in sadness in her book Small Victories.  It’s a myth that suicide rates increase over the holidays (CNC, 2013), but not a myth that the pandemic is precipitating suicide (Reger, Stanly & Joiner, 2020) . One cause is isolation and loneliness, which exacerbates all the conditions of unprocessed grief. Depression and anxiety are completely convincing, so convincing that some of us take our own lives. Depression and anxiety come in many forms – from apathy, sluggishness, insomnia, physical pain, and carelessness about your own safety to restlessness, agitation, feelings of worthlessness and suicidal thoughts. There is nothing wrong with any of these feelings, and there is everything right with getting help when you have them. See your doctor (masked up in-person or visit online) and talk about how you are feeling. If your doctor won’t listen or you don’t feel like they care, find a doctor who does listen, who you feel like does care about your feelings and who understands that your feelings and your health are directly connected. Talk to friends. If anyone in your life (friend, family, work) – even someone in your ancestry – has had a problem with alcohol, join an Al-Anon online meeting and attend regularly. (Al-Anon is not the same as AA. It is for anyone who has been in a relationship with an alcoholic, addict, or abusive person).  You can find an Al-Anon meeting by searching with your city, town or region and Al-Anon or on the Al-Anon world service website. It is more available and less expensive than therapy and can be as helpful for many. 

It may seem antithetical that guidance for the happiness in holidays is to allow yourself to feel angry and sad, but it’s true. At the Happiness Alliance we have lots of tools (in the form of presentations you can view and download) for how to be happy when you are feeling sad on our How to Be Happy page. 

Re-define Giving 

We usually equate holidays with gifts. Giving and receiving gifts wrapped up and full of promise that bring a smile to your face. This year will be different. Many of us have been soothing ourselves with online buying and don’t need much.  But for many, Covid-19 has brought economic strife and much suffering. In particular, for low-income families in your area, as well as communities in developing nations that relied on tourism, are in dire straits and are suffering. So is wildlife in the areas where tourism supported conservation. This year, for those people in your life who don’t need or want anything and will appreciate it, donate in their name.

Research has shown that giving to charities actually makes people feel good for longer than any other kind of gift (Dunn, Whillans, Norton & Aknin, 2019).  That said, we are happier about a donation when we have a choice. So be inventive about your giving – and give your gift recipients a choice about who to donate to in their name. You can find choices by searching for the name of their city, town or region and “charities that help low income families and children” or “non-profits needing help.”  You can find international choices in organizations such as OxFam, and smaller grassroots non-profits like The Maa Trust in Kenya, Nourish Bangladesh  (two nonprofits we personally know are directly helping people) or by searching for nonprofits operating in the remote areas you have visited or would like or visit.

This holiday season, redefine what it means to give with an internal paradigm shift too. Give yourself the gift of time abundantly, deliriously, cheerfully and without remorse. Waste your time – a ton of it. Do things that are utterly unproductive and completely pointless. If you live with roommates or your family, start a new tradition of a completely useless and utterly consuming pastimes like card games, board games, or reading plays together (here is a fun example, but with movie stars).  Jigsaw puzzles work equally well for wasting time if you live alone or with others. Do stuff that you love to do but never have the time to do because it is too trivial or maybe even stupid – or better yet, something you want to do but do not because you don’t think you are good enough at it. If gaming is your thing, dive into those games that leave you feeling happy and generous and give you good dreams when you detach from the keyboard. 

Give to yourself in other ways. Take your vitamins, especially vitamin C and D (make sure to visit your doctor for your annual preventative exam to see if you have deficiencies). Sleep like a cat. Take walks like a dog, seeking out things to be curious about and finding wonder in the shape of a tree or your neighbor’s decorations. 

Finally, if you still have time to give, volunteer for a nonprofit. With Covid-19, it’s harder to give your time, but most, if not all, nonprofits are having a harder time these days. If you don’t have one in mind, the map app on your computer or smartphone can help when you put in the term nonprofit or charity and choose search near me.

Plan but Don’t Do

A lot of us are planning to avoid this year’s holidays by getting away. It can be a really good strategy sometimes, but this year – don’t.  Instead make plans for a crazy fantastic all expenses paid wonderful trip – dream, storyboard, plan it all out. Fantasize, find out the ticket everything except actually travelling to another area, city or country.

There are two major reasons for not traveling. First, particularly if you are planning to travel to an exotic location - the area you probably want to visit does not have adequate health care coverage for vulnerable populations and can’t afford an outbreak of Covid-19, and is low on the priority for vaccines when they are finally available. The people who will be serving you are members of the vulnerable populations or live and care for elderly and often can’t afford to fully socially distance due to their work.  Even if you test negative for your flight, there is no guarantee that you won’t end up being a super spreader – and super spreader tourists are already causing devastating effects on remote communities. The second reason is travel bans. It may not seem like such a bad deal if you get stuck on your dream island, but if you play out all the consequences in your head, you’ll have another think.

So instead make plans. Making plans is good for you. It helps you to build your capacity for patience, which is one of the ingredients of resilient and happy people. It also brings your focus on what you want, which makes it more likely you will get the essence of what you want and is good for you. Don’t limit your planning to a vacation. Plan out a crazy improbable and fantastic future for yourself. Make a story about how the next month, year and decade will be.  Let it be messy. Don’t be realistic. Put away any expectations. If ever a thought comes up about what you should do or accomplishment or how you measure up, tell that thought to get screwed and make your plans even more improbable, crazy and impossible. Build your castle in the sky as high up and as big as you possibly can – with lots of detail.  Have super fun with it. Occasionally reflect on your plans. (This goes back to wasting time). Ask yourself what the themes and patterns are in your plans, and what they tell you about yourself. In this reflection you will find hidden gems – love gifts from you to you.


In sum, our three tips for the holidays are: 

1. be sad + be mad + be disappointed = grieve the loss of this holiday season

2. put a spin on giving = donations 4 presents + wildly waste time

3. stay home and build castles in the sky.

Next year will be better – or may be better. We don’t really know, but it probably will be. This year sucks. We hope these tips are useful to you. If they are not, we get it. However, know that we really are in this together and we give you these tips out of love and with a desire to help – you and ourselves.  And we would love to hear your tips for surviving the holidays, and will share them in our next newsletter: Let us know here!

Monday, September 7, 2020

Two Happiness takeaways

Early September 2020, Laura Musikanski, Executive Director of the Happiness Alliance, gave a talk on the application of the construct of happiness and well-being in the tech sector. Here it is for you:
Two little know facts about happiness are that (1)happiness and well-being is a well understood and accepted concept among academia, governments and society and (2) happiness and well-being can and does serve as the basis for strategy, goals and management through data and indicators. Let’s take a high-level look at the history. First - in the happiness movement, we use the terms happiness and well-being interchangeably. In a sense, our understanding of happiness as a goal for government and life goes back to ancient history- reflected in the Western culture by Aristotle’s statement that happiness is the sole aim and purpose of life. More recently Maslow, whom you are familiar with through the concept of a hierarchy of needs, established the now robust study of well-being in the psychological field. In our generation Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi came along and gave rise to the field called positive psychology, formalizing the study of what makes us happy. With the turn of our century, some economists turned to a more complex idea of happiness and well-being in lieu of the singular aims of profit, personal wealth and economic growth as the goals of economies, government and life. In 2012, the first World Happiness Report was issued, which you have probably heard about when you see reports about the world’s happiest county. The next year, the OECD, which issues the reports about nations GDP levels each year, definitively answered the question of whether happiness can be measured with the OECD guidelines on measuring subjective well-being. This followed important work Bhutan had done as the first nation in the world to both measure and use happiness as the purpose of government – from its constitution to its planning. Today every nation in the EU and every member state of the OECD is measuring some aspect of happiness and well-being many of them more than one aspect. One more recent development is New Zealand’s use of well-being in its national budgeting.
By now you are probably wondering about the intercept of subjective (survey) based and objective indicators for happiness and well-being. Look in the direction of the 247 indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals –the SDGs – and the gaps in them filled by subjective indicators.
If you take the Happiness Index, you get a direct experience of how subjective indicators can both inform you about the definition of happiness and well-being as well as provide knowledge and ideas about how to safeguard and improve your happiness and well-being with the happiness index. As you can see, with subjective data we can understand what people think about their own lives, such in this infographic, we see that this group is suffering in time balance and the environment and doing well in psychological well-being and standard of living, which shows us where there is room for improvement and gives us clues about how to get there – which strengths to build on. We could look into the data and see how certain demographic, for example race, economic status, education level, compare to others, giving us a way, to define through data, difficult issues such as social injustice.
Finally, on operationalizing happiness and well-being as a construct and with indicators and data, look at IEEE 7010-2020. This project is one of many inspired by the Ethically Aligned Design program, and give you a knowledge base, a process as well as a robust bank of indicators for understanding, measuring and managing the impact of AI on human well-being – you can now access IEEE 7010Recommended Practice for Assessing the Impact of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems on Human Well-Being freely through IEEE’s reading room (scroll down, create a profile, and login - it take sa minute but is better than the alternative of paying about $300 USD to access). In conclusion the two takeaways:happiness and well-being are a well understood and accepted concept and happiness and well-being can be a basis for strategy, goals and management through data and indicators.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Covid-Blues: sometimes it's not good to be happy

July 15, 2020, many schools in Maryland and DC announced a virtual learning year in 2020-2021 for  children. Major companies have extended  work from home for months. As if to compound the misery and anxiety, someone decided it was news (it is not, its been known for years) that squirrels carry bubonic plague. The news can't seem to get enough of people pulling out guns when asked to wear masks.  And it goes on and on.  It is overwhelming, anxiety provoking, gut wrenching. If you seep yourself in the news, it will steal your peace of mind, your sleep, and your well-being. You have probably already experienced this, and found ways to modify your diet of news.

At the same time, there is good news. A cure for COVID-19 may be in the works may be in our future, and maybe even a vaccine. You probably hear this news with caution. Perhaps you allow yourself to believe a cure and vaccine will come true,  and start to feel a little choked up. But then you probably reel yourself in.Then perhaps a flood of conflicting feelings comes up. In a way, you don't want things to go back to normal, but you do want the pandemic to end.

There have been silver linings to the pandemic. Life slowing down. Less traffic and no commutes - at least for most of us. A time to pause and reflect - even a time of retreat. A time to reconnect (virtually) with loved ones, and with oneself. A healing of the planet, with the air clearing and night skies sparkling like they have not for decades in cities, and the birds having a ball this spring. Pet shelters have emptied and puppies are filling the streets, happy to go on walks with their new human parents.

Sometimes it's not appropriate to be happy. But that does not mean you can't feel happy. There is so much to grieve about the pandemic. There is also a lot to learn.

What if we took this time to really focus on how we are feeling and to allow for feelings in their moment. Feelings make themselves known by how they come up in the body. You probably feel anxiety in your belly and chest - a racing heart, breathlessness, and tight stomach. Maybe a stomach ache. You probably feel sadness in your heart - that heart break feeling. A feeling of hope probably fills you with warmth in your chest, and a feeling of not wanting to lose something may appear with a pull in the muscles of your arms to reach out. The happiness you feel about reconnecting with loved ones may be in the belly connection to the earth, and if you got a pet, your love for the little one may fill your entire body with a tingling live feeling.

Feelings can be hard to discern, because the mind gets really active. The mind can try to explain, control, suppress or change a feeling. It can try, but never really succeed because feelings are truths in themselves. While feelings are ephemeral and do not define who or what a person or situation is,  they do define what they are and do not go away when the mind tells them to. Instead they go underground inside you, which often leaves the body with a feeling of numbness or disconnection.

We are complex. Feelings can be conflicting, which makes feelings even more confusing. You can feel anxiety and hope, love and dread, heart broken and calm, or any other combination. This can make it even harder to accept and learn from feelings.  Yet, feelings have a lot to teach us. A way to learn from feelings is to first accept and allow the truth of what they are in you, without having to change or act on them.

This is hard work. But it may be the most powerful way to get through this time, right now, when there is so little we have control over beyond our own actions.

So here is a thought. What if we are each of us a part of the expression of the universe, and what if how we expressed ourselves made a difference - even if we do not see it in the moment.  Then wouldn't we choose a universe that accepts all with love and acts in wisdom out of love, and so do this for ourselves?  Wouldn't we to aspire to love and accept the feeling that is arising right now, and in the next moment, and in the next? 

Maybe this is one small way we can find happiness amidst all this hardship, and maybe one way to fortify ourselves for the actions we take to help ourselves and others with all the heartbreak.

-- Laura Musikanski, Happiness Alliance

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

An invitation to share on happiness

What is Your Happiness and Health Wisdom?

Hi Friend, 

With so much in the news that is frightening, so much that is outside of our control, and so many people and organizations giving different advise, we feel it is important to reflect and learn from our own wisdom. So we ask:

What are you doing for your happiness and health?

Let us know by clicking here, and in our next newsletter, we will share your wisdom for how to be healthy and happy now. 

boarder 1

Join a Happiness & Health Conversation - an Open Forum Hour on Wednesdays until Earth Day 

March 25 and April 1, 8, 15  & 22 (Earth Day)

12 pm PT/3 pm ET /7 pm GMT

In these days of physical isolation, it's important that we find new ways to socially connect.  It's also important to be able to name and talk about your feelings.

We are hosting a weekly hour for open discussion on how you are feeling and why & what you are doing for your happiness just now. We will begin with short introductions, and each person will have 3 minutes to share how they are feeling and why, and, if they like, one thing they are doing for their happiness and health these days.

Join via zoom:
Meeting ID: 709 331 423
One tap mobile +16699006833,,709331423# US 
Dial by your location +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
Meeting ID: 709 331 423
Find your local number:

boarder 2

What I am doing for my happiness and health: a message from Laura, our Executive Director. 

Here in Seattle we have been in self-quarantine for a little over a week. The parks are still open for walks, so I have been taking long walks everyday, and spending time among the trees, seeking and soaking peace from them.

Some days are worse than others, and I find myself feeling anxious, Yesterday I found this talk by Tara Brach to be particularly useful. 

As night, I curl up on the couch with my sweetie and we watch comedy shows, nature shows or feel-good movies. We have a news curfew, and also a Covid-19 discussion curfew. 

I have reached out to the elders in my life and helped them to learn how to use online meeting technologies, encouraging them to participate in online groups and have daily face to face online interactions.  

- Laura Musikanski, Executive Director of the Happiness Alliance 

boarder 3

boarder 6

The Loneliness, Happiness and Health Connection

We do not know how long social distancing and self-quarantine will be necessary, but we probably all expect it to last a while. We also do not know if we or our loved ones will survive. This is so scary. Let's not bear this fear alone or let it rob us of our happiness and the enjoyment of our lives. 

We humans are social creatures, even the most introverted of us needs connection with others. Loneliness is not good for us.
Right now, quality of life - our happiness - is really important. 

We looked at data for people who are often or always lonely and people who are rarely or never lonely, and found a few similarities and a few differences. 

Self-perceived health is one place where there is a big difference, as well as feeling postive about oneself, satisfaction with life, and satisfaction with opportunities to enjoy nature. 

People who are not lonely are feel more positively about themselves, are more satisfied with life, are more satisfied with their opportunities to enjoy nature, and feel that they are healthier 

We think that some of these differences may be reflected in your answers to what you are doing for your health and happiness. 

We also feel strongly that we need to do all we can to not be lonely at this time when the threat to our health is so strong. This is why we are starting our Happiness & Health Conversations. 

lonliness graphic

boarder 4

Monday, March 2, 2020

Health, Happiness and the Coronavirus

On behalf of Bliss Medical Center and the Happiness Alliance, here is short presentation with advice for staying healthy and happy in the face of the novel coronavirus.

A bit more about prevention: 

Sanitary techniques that prevent spread of infection including hand washing, hand sanitizing, not touching your face, and wearing masks and taking care not to cough or sneeze near other people remain important.  However, these measures and more aggressive measures (such as quarantine) have failed to stop the spread of the virus. 

As there is no vaccination, no definitive treatment, and preventative measures have generally failed to stop the spread, most people, regardless of their degree of interaction with other people, can be expected to eventually contract the virus.  And because the novel corona virus is potentially lethal, even in those who are otherwise healthy, it is easy to feel powerless and afraid.

While the following techniques will not prevent the spread of the virus, they are sound health advice that can help you maximize your personal health and maintain a positive outlook for you, your friends and family.

What does the data say?

We pulled data all the Happiness Index in 2019 for those who answered the question about their perception of their health (12,486 respondents). We separated the data for people who said their health was very good or excellent (2,975 respondents) from those who said their health was good, fair or poor (9,511 respondents). 

The visualization bellow tells a story.  Those who perceive themselves to be healthy are much happier as well.  When compared, those with a very good or excellent perception of their health scored higher in each of the other domains of happiness, by a wide margin of 14.2 points on a 100 point scale.

What does the visualization say? 

People who perceive themselves to be in very good or excellent health are more satisfied with their exercise and feel they live in a healthy environment. This indicates that a connection to nature and spending time in nature, when your environment is healthy, and spending time is good for your health.  These are findings that science backs up  (White et al., 2019)

It also says that  people who perceive themselves to physically healthy are also psychologically healthy. They are more satisfied with their lives, more likely to feel their lives are worthwhile, more optimistic and more likely to feel their lives have a purpose and meaning. They are also happier. 

What is more, these people are less lonely and feel more of a sense of belonging to their community.

What does this mean to you?

Spend time in nature.  Go for a walk in a park. Garden. Go skiing. Admire your neighbors garden. Go to the beach or a lake.  Take the time to do whatever it is you love to do in nature. 

Take good care of yourself.  Learn about how to change your habits (of thought and deed) and change your mind by developing happiness skills. Talk with a friend or a therapist about the things you feel ashamed about or have grief over - life is hard and most everybody goes through things that are too hard to process alone. Join an Al-Anon group if your life is affected by someone (past or present) with addiction. 

Spend time with the people you love. Taking precautions for your health does not mean you should isolate yourself. Follow good health practices, but don't isolate yourself for long periods of time.  Instead, spend extra time when you feel afraid for your health with the people you love and who love you. 

With love and our hope for your health and happiness,
The Happiness Alliance

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Who Trusts National Government in USA? Hmm...

One of the six factors that the World Happiness Report examines to understand what makes people happy is perception of corruption in government. 

Our Happiness Index measures perception of corruption, sense that public officials pay attention to what people think, as well as trust in national and local government.  

Who cares? 

Trust in government, sense of corruption and sense that public officials pay attention to what people think are more important to happiness than most people think (Ott, 2011).

A few propositions why good government is important to happiness:

Trust in government sets a tone. When you can trust your government, you are more likely to trust other institutions: businesses, schools and colleges, nonprofits.  When you live in a nation where you feel you can trust institutions, you are more likely to be trustworthy yourself and more likely to trust other people. 

Honesty (as opposed to Corruption) allows people to feel safe and secure. We all know that safety and security are basic human needs. Safety in our personal live is tied to safety in our systems, including governmental, economic and social. 

Paying attention to what you think is an important aspect of esteem. Esteem and respect are also basic human needs. A government that cares about what you think about has the information it needs to secure and protect your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This month's happiness report focuses on sense of corruption in local government and trust in national government.  We look at the data gathered in 2019 for people who responded that they live in the US. This comes to 4,687 people. 

In Most States People Think Local Government is Not Corrupt

sense of corruption in local government

State by State, Trust in National Government is Low

trust in national government states

Scores for sense that local government is corrupt are, for the most part a bit above neutral, meaning people generally do not think government is corrupt, but would not say with certainty that it is not corrupt.  The average score for all states is 51.9- not bad, but not good

Not so for trust in national government. The average score is 30.03, meaning people do not have confidence in national government. 

The Wealthy Think A Bit Better of Local Government

sense of corrpution by income

Wealthy or Poor, Trust in National Government is not Great

trust in national government by income level

Income level does not make a big difference when it comes to trust in national government or sense that local government is corrupt. There is a slight trend up, meaning as your income goes up, your trust goes up a little, and your sense of corruption in local government goes down. 

The average score for sense of corruption across all income levels is 56 out of 100. 

The average score for trust in government across all income levels is 30 out of 100. 

Men Trust National Government a Bit More than Women

Men trust government more

trust in national government by gender 3The question is:
Please indicate how much confidence you have in the following organizations:

National Government

(We ask the question for Local Government as well, and will focus on that in another report.)

The possible answers are:
  • No confidence
  • Not very much confidence
  • A fair amount of confidence
  • Quite a lot of confidence
  • A great deal of confidence 

A score of 0 would be the lowest, and a score of 50 would be for a fair amount of confidence. 

All Genders Are Fairly Neutral About the Question of Whether Local Government is Corrupt

Gender has little to do with sense of corruption in local government 

sense of corruption by gender 2
The question is:
State your level of agreement with the following statement:

Corruption is widespread throughout the government in my city or town.

The possible answers are:

  • Strongly disagree 
  • Disagree
  • Neither agree nor disagree
  • Agree
  • Strongly agree 
A score of 0 is the lowest score, for strongly agree that corruption is widespread, and a score of 50 is for neither agreeing or disagreeing. 

You can interact with the data by clicking the image or here.

Next month we will explore more data for happiness and government, and give you some suggestions for how to make a difference. 

In the meantime - Vote! 

& if you voted, Thank you!

About the Data

All of our data is from a convenience sampling. It reflects the people who took the survey, and may or may not reflect the general population, The more data we have, the better picture we get of the state of happiness.

In some states, we have very little data. 

How can you help? Encourage people to take the Happiness Index.  

Donate! Your Donation Makes Happiness Work.

Did you know we are a 100% volunteer organization. And it takes money to keep us alive. Your donation is necessary for us to continue contributing towards world change.