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California Vs. Texas: The State Of "Well-Being"

by: Joe Deshotel

Sun Mar 30, 2014 at 03:30 PM CDT

A lot has been said in comparison of the Texas and California economies, but what about their citizens well-being? A Well-being Index was formulated by Gallup in partnership with Healthways to provide, "an in-depth, real-time view of Americans' perceptions of their well-being," which in turn, "gives employers, health plans, health systems, governments, and communities unmatched insight into the state of their populations."

With 6 years and 2 million surveys under their belt Gallup - Healthways provides and important context to the big stats about job creation and population increases thrown around by politicians. In other words, just having a job doesn't make a person healthy, or happy, and it doesn't say a lot about what the future of that community will look like. The intro to the survey results state, "measures such as unemployment, GDP, and health statistics are essential, but less than adequate in optimizing change. They reflect the past."

See how Texas measured up next to California below the jump...

Why are these measures so important? According to Gallup - Healthways:
"For communities and countries, increasing citizens' well-being yields a competitive advantage for economic development and job creation, and it lowers disease burden and healthcare costs. For employers, it means greater productivity and lower costs in the workforce, and better business performance. For health plans and health systems, it means improved clinical outcomes and lower costs. And for each of us individually, higher well-being means living a better life."

As many observers might expect Southern states performed poorly across the board when compared to other regions of the country. Not a single Southern state made it into the top ten for overall well being, yet 7 of the ten lowest performing states were once Confederate states.

In the overall state by state comparison Texas (21) falls just behind California (17). The ranking considered 6 data points: Life Evaluation, Emotional Health, Work Environment, Physical Health, Healthy Behaviors, Basic Access. Texas fared best in the Life Evaluation category at 12th, but came in at 46 in Basic Access. The Basic Access Index is based on, "13 items measuring residents' access to food, shelter, healthcare, and a safe and satisfying place to live."

California's best performance came in the Healthy Behaviors category and its worst was also Basic Access at 40th. Overall California fared better in 4 of the 6 categories.

When it comes to measuring communities within states California fared much better. Of the top ten US Congressional Districts for Well-being five are in California, while only 4 Texas districts made the top 50.

Gallup also measured communities (Metropolitan Statistical Areas) and found that, "Many communities with high well-being are achieving this status by choosing to intentionally cultivate and embrace a clear culture of well-being, where high well-being options become the easy and natural choice for their citizens." Part of that culture includes public infrastructure investments like "bike lanes, sidewalks and better access to public transportation."

The only Texas community to make it into the top quintile is Austin-Round Rock in 30th. Dallas-Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio all made the 2nd quintile. Sadly, my own hometown of Beaumont bottomed out at 186 of 189 communities measured.

The idea behind Texas model that raw jobs numbers equate to economic success, misses the point that in order to continue that success people must be healthy and happy. Sometimes those intangible data points are harder to track than job numbers or unemployment, but as Texas becomes home to more and more Americans from other states, our leaders will be forced to deal with this reality. More citizens means more demands on infrastructure and better access to basics like healthcare and public education.

Let's hope they are up to the challenge, our future well-being depends on it.

You can follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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I have an idea what it will look like (0.00 / 0)
"In other words, just having a job doesn't make a person healthy, or happy, and it doesn't say a lot about what the future of that community will look like."

A community with no jobs and a weak economy looks a lot like Detroit.  

Now Compare Austin to other cities, WITH jobs... (0.00 / 0)
There are other factors. Consider a town like Beaumont that has many jobs related to oil and gas yet is 186 out of 189 in well being vs Austin that is 30 out of 186. It's not just about jobs, and that was the point -- sorry you missed it!

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