Life Satisfaction Predicts Population Growth

From a new study by Michigan State’s Richard Lucas:

Subjective well-being (SWB) reflects an overall evaluation of the quality of a person’s life from his or her perspective. Although SWB is typically studied at the individual level, social scientists have become increasingly interested in the well-being of broader regions like cities, states, or nations. The current study examines the association between aggregate well-being and an important behavioral indicator of regional success: migration and population growth. Using life satisfaction data from over 2 million respondents, along with population data from 2000 to 2010, I show that U.S. counties with higher levels of life satisfaction grew at substantially faster rates than did counties with low life satisfaction. Supplemental analyses showed that this association was not due to regional differences in birth or death rates. Instead, counties with high life satisfaction experienced high levels of domestic migration. These results show the validity and utility of life satisfaction measures at the regional level.

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