Published in Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®

Authors: Bankert, B, Coberley, C, Pope, J, Wells, A

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® (WBI) debuted in the U.S. on January 2, 2008, and since inception has been measuring the subjective well-being of respondents at the U.S. metropolitan statistical area (MSA), state, and national level during a time of exceptional economic distress compared to historical standards. The objective of this paper is to determine the correlation between the WBI and four measures of economic conditions that represent income, job security, consumer prices, and wealth. The analysis utilized publicly available economic data and WBI scores at MSA, state, and national levels to calculate correlation and crosscorrelation statistics for cross-sectional and time series approaches, respectively. In the cross-sectional analysis at the MSA and state levels, a positive correlation between the WBI and per capita personal income was observed compared with a negative correlation between the WBI and the unemployment rate. States and MSAs with higher per capita income had higher well-being while those with higher unemployment had lower well-being. In the time-series analysis at the national level, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the S&P 500 were positively correlated with WBI scores whereas the unemployment rate was negatively correlated. Of interest, the S&P 500 was a lagging indicator for the Life Evaluation Index (LEI) and Basic Access Index by one to two months; and the unemployment rate was a leading indicator for the composite WBI and LEI by three months. Overall, the results corroborate existing research that implies economic activity has a relatively strong influence on well-being, but also suggests that certain elements of well-being may precede economic change. As such, well-being is an important overall indicator for regional and national prosperity, and may have future applications as a predictive indicator of economic growth.

Key Takeaways

  • Community well-being has a direct relationship with per capita income in states and cities in the United States, but is negatively correlated with regional unemployment rates.
  • Longitudinally, national unemployment rate changes are inversely related to and precede changes in national well-being.
  • Financial measures (CPI and S&P 500) are positively correlated with national well-being over time; changes in these financial measures follow changes in well-being domains.
  • Well-being is an important indicator for regional and economic prosperity and may serve as a useful predictor of these measures.