public goods

Kidd Springs Park

Which states have the happiest residents? States where governments spend more public goods that improve the quality of life for constituents — like libraries, parks, natural resources, and police protection, a Baylor University study found.

Those public goods, which are also quality of life, are things that everyone in a community can use.

Patrick Flavin, Ph.D.

“Public goods are things you can’t exclude people from using — and one person using them doesn’t stop another from doing so,” researcher Patrick Flavin, Ph.D., associate professor of political science in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences said in a press release explaining the study. “They’re typically not profitable to produce in the private market, so if the government doesn’t provide them, they will either be under-provided or not at all.”

So things like well-maintained roads make people happy because they aren’t stuck in detours and traffic, and large social spaces like parks and trails create places that people can connect, which also makes people happier.

And while one might think that since spending on public goods can push property taxes higher, the fact that they also boost home values can often make people reconcile themselves to the extra expense.

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

Flavin’s study, which was published in Social Science Research, examined data on self-reported happiness levels from 1976 to 2006 found in the General Social Survey conducted by independent researcher NORC  at the University of Chicago. (more…)