Can money buy contentment? Fortunately, we're not naive enough to think we can answer that question so glibly, but we're always interested in graphics that try to make sense of how economics and mental well-being play off one another. Luckily, Money Choice has drawn up a handy, national map based on recent U.S. census bureau statistics. Some of the conclusions seem obvious: Idyllic Hawaii has the second highest amount of millionaires nationwide and, not shockingly, ranks #1 in national well-being. It's a generally wonderful place to be, which is why we all dream of vacationing there. (Even Obama has a place in Hawaii — 'nuff said).
Other rankings are bit more surprising, but do seem to make sense after you consider context. For example, Maryland is first in per-capita wealth (thanks to well-paid government jobs) and also pretty happy (11th overall). But, while New Jersey has the third most millionaires and third highest median household income, the Garden State only ranks 32nd in happiness. Similarly, New York has plenty of millionaires (12th overall), but the population is only slightly more content than their Jersey neighbors (two places higher at 30th). Obviously, both states have high-income disparity and very diverse (and often dense) populations; it's hard for that many people to be unilaterally happy. Just when you're about to write off the tri-state area as full of depressed, well-paid people, check out Connecticut, which manages to be both well-off (4th) and fairly content (16th). Out of the New England states, Massachusetts (aka "Kerry Country") fares the best overall.
We're also noticing an unscientific but notable trend: The larger Midwestern and Western states, regardless of income, seem more content than the rest of the country — even crazy-beautiful California. Could close access to vast expanses of nature, not money, be the true key to happiness? We'd love to road trip and find out.