The Looking Glass looks at economic and real estate trends through two distinct lenses: the optimist’s “glass half full” and the pessimist’s “glass half empty”.
Buzz: California ranked high in four national scorecards for happiness while also topping the charts for the cost of living.
Sources: My trusty spreadsheet reviewed four recent “happiness” rankings, as well as a study of state-to-state disposable incomes.
Debate: Is California worth the high price?
glass half full
California ranks on four scorecards as a very “lucky place” nationally.
Consider the state’s top 10 placement in rankings that attempt to quantify a state’s “luck”. The varied mathematics of these studies compares Demographics, mental health, wellness, public safety and economic opportunity.
California was #7 on WalletHub’s happiness scorecard. The state ranked eighth in Top Data’s grades. There was a #9 rank from the NiceRx review.
And California was the fourth least lonely state in AgeingInPlace.com’s “Loneliest States” ranking.
Next, I averaged the placements for each state grade from the four report cards. By this calculation, California is the third happiest state in my composite wellness ranking.
Just before California lay Hawaii and New Jersey. Just behind were Maryland and Minnesota.
At the other end of the spectrum, West Virginia ranked 50th, followed by Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Ohio.
glass half empty
California’s luck doesn’t come cheap. So what is the price of this possible paradise?
California’s 2021 per capita income of $76,386 ranks fourth among states according to a review of federal data by Upgraded Points. That is 26% more than the average income of all states.
But the typical California tax bill and high cost of living cut that bounty by $17,504. These additional costs are more than three times what the average state adjusts to a paycheck.
So, after paying these expenses, Californians are left with a disposable income of $58,882.
Yes, that ranks 10th. Yet it’s only 6% above the 50-state average.
Incidentally, the top nine states with tax/cost-adjusted revenues were Connecticut, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Alaska, Nebraska, and Washington State.
The bottom five? Mississippi, then Hawaii, Arizona, Alabama and New Mexico.
No collection of studies can give a general answer to the question “Is the Californian lifestyle worth it?”
California’s high cost of living means it’s a tough sell, even for people who appreciate the qualities of the Golden State.
You see, no state is for everyone. And finances are also an important factor in people’s life choices.
This disposable income data is another reminder that living in California leaves many people with tight pockets.
Jonathan Lansner is a business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at [email protected]