By Rachel Dovey.
The residents of Santa Monica, California, are collectively happier than most Americans and about as happy as most Canadians (an impressive comparison, since Canada is statistically among the happiest countries in the world). But for all their optimism for the future and trust in their local communities, residents of the California city feel politically disenfranchised — only about 29 percent believe they have any say in local policy decisions.
Those findings come from the city’s newly released Wellbeing Index, which uses data to measure “community health and wellbeing” and will be mined to help officials prioritize policies and programs. The Index was originally created with grant money from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors’ Challenge in 2013, and this is Santa Monica’s second take on the concept. Take two was “fine-tuned to increase usability including data disaggregated by race/ethnicity, age, gender, zip code, and other factors,” according to a release. The participation rate also doubled from the city’s first index.
The end result looks at six key dimensions: outlook, community (how involved Santa Monica residents feel with their city and local government and networks), place and planet, learning, health and economic opportunity.
Some findings that could potentially influence policy include the fact that, overall, residents trust their immediate neighbors, but feel like they don’t have a broader influence on city politics. Also, residents reported feeling worried about housing security and future job opportunities. Nearly half of residents (renters and homeowners included) spend 30 percent of their income on housing and 25 percent worry about paying their rent or mortgage. Parents are particularly worried that their children will not be able to continue living in the city on their own. See a breakdown with more statistics here.