Smile! Eagle County is your happy place! We’re the 20th happiest county in these United States, research finds | VailDaily.com

Smile! Eagle County is your happy place! We’re the 20th happiest county in these United States, research finds

EAGLE —Eagle County might not be as happy as Disneyland, "The Happiest Place on Earth," but we smile more than most folks.

Eagle County is America's 20th happiest county, according to the "Happiest Places in America" study.

A guy named Derek Miller crunched the numbers for an outfit called Smart Asset and came up with something called a Happiness Index.

Miller started with a county's unemployment rate, because being jobless creates individual economic bummerhood.

“First, we ranked each county in each metric. Then we found the average ranking for each county. Using this average ranking, we created our final score.”Derek MillerSmart Asset

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Then he threw in the poverty rate, the marriage rate (because married people tend to be happier, especially wives who have someone handy on which to blame stuff) life expectancy (because it's hard to be happy when you're dead) and physical activity (endorphins and all that).

He mixed it all up, and Miller had his Happiness Index.

Carver County, Minnesota

"First, we ranked each county in each metric. Then we found the average ranking for each county," Miller happily explained. "Using this average ranking, we created our final score."

The happy people of Carver County, Minnesota, with the Happiness Index score of 100, apparently spend their days happily grinning from ear to ear.

Broomfield County, Colorado, which was founded as a life support system for StorageTek and other corporate entities with which those of us in the Vail Valley might be familiar, was 25th in Miller's top 25, with a Happiness Index of 91.61.

Eagle County's Happiness Index is 92.34, which ranks us between Morris, New Jersey, and anywhere in Georgia, the state that Miller calculates has the lowest Happiness Index, even with the best state song ever, made a hit twice by music legends Ray Charles and Willie Nelson. The least happy place in Georgia is Richmond County, with a 2.42 Happiness Index.

And before other counties in Colorado's Central Rockies resort region get their collective knickers in a twist about being omitted, your county's population has to be home to more than 50,000 souls to make Miller's list.

There are 980 such counties in these United States, and Pitkin is not among them. Neither is Summit County nor Routt County.

Even Carver County, Minnesota, isn't all that happy compared to some other parts of the world.

The United States was the 18th-happiest country in the world in 2018, according to the United Nations' World Happiness Report.

And no matter where your county ranked on Miller's American study, thank heaven every day you're not in Jefferson County, Arkansas, the county with the worst average ranking in Miller's 2018 happiest places study: zero.

What they measured

Unemployment rate: Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is for January 2018.

Poverty rate: Data comes from the 2016 5-Year American Community Survey.

Ratio of income to cost of living: This is the median household income divided by required annual income before taxes to afford typical expenses for two adults and one child. Data on median household income comes from the Census Bureau’s 2016 5-Year American Community Survey. Data on required annual income comes from the MIT Living Wage Study.

Marriage rate: Data on marriage rates comes from the Census Bureau’s 2016 5-Year American Community Survey.

Divorce rate: Data on divorce rates comes from the Census Bureau’s 2016 5-Year American Community Survey.

Personal bankruptcy rate: Data for personal bankruptcy filings came from uscourts.gov.

Life expectancy rate: Data on average life expectancy rate comes from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and is for 2014.

Physical activity rate: This is the percentage of adults age 20 and older reporting no leisure-time physical activity.

What they found

Consistent counties: In total, five of last year’s 10 happiest counties scored in the top 10 this year. In particular, Carver County, Minnesota, and Loudon and Fairfax counties in Virginia scored well, with each county securing a top-five spot for the third straight year.

A wide spread: No single state or region dominates the top 10. Nine states are represented in the top 10, and every geographic region is represented in the top 25. The Midwest has a slight edge, with nine counties representing it in the top 25.

You’re not Georgia: Georgia counties make up five of the 10 least happy counties in the study. These counties tend to have high rates of poverty and unemployment. The worst-scoring Georgia county is Richmond County, which scored a 2.42 out of 100 on the index.

Also: Jefferson County, Arkansas, has a Happiness Index of 0.

Source: Smart Asset