Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The happiest and least happy persons in America (statistically speaking)

Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Wong (left)


Andrew Sullivan's blog had a funny post yesterday about an effort by Catherine Rampell, a NYTimes economics reporter, to identify the statistically happiest person in America based on recent Gallup Poll data.  Ms. Rampell, writing in theTimes, had described the person:

"Gallup’s answer: he’s a tall, Asian-American, observant Jew who is at least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year."

Next came a phone call to Ms. Rampell from a synagogue in Honolulu that identified this very person to her:

"Meet Alvin Wong. He is a 5-foot-10, 69-year-old, Chinese-American, Kosher-observing Jew, who’s married with children and lives in Honolulu. He runs his own health care management business and earns more than $120,000 a year.

Reached by phone at his home on Friday . . ., Mr. Wong said that he was indeed a very happy person. He said that perhaps he manages to be the happiest man in America because “my life philosophy is, if you can’t laugh at yourself, life is going to be pretty terrible for you.”  He continued: “This is a practical joke, right?”

In a post today Sullivan discussed the fact that in response to Ms. Rampell's earlier effort at finding Mr. Wong, her readers had asked her to use the same data to identify the least happy person in America.  Here was her response:

"In response, several readers have asked who would be the least happy person in America based on Gallup’s data.  So I’ve put together a statistical composite of the person whose characteristics are associated with the lowest levels of well-being.  Statistically speaking, the least happy American would be a 4’10”, middle-aged Muslim woman without children who is separated from her husband and earns under $12,000 a year. She’s also an unemployed manufacturing worker in West Virginia."

Mr. Wong sounds like a pretty smart guy.  I sometimes wonder if Scott Fitzgerald is able to laugh at himself?  In one of my next posts I will discuss growing signs of Mr. Fitzgerald's current unhappiness.

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