NEW YORK (MainStreet) Move over Mickey Mouse, Disney World is no longer the happiest place in America. That title has been stolen by... North Dakota.
Generally when you bring up North Dakota at parties (and who doesn't?) most people think of two things: oil and corn, and maybe lots of empty spaces. According to a recent 50 state survey by Gallup, however, there's a lot more going for the residents out in the Roughrider State. Not only is North Dakota popular among its own citizens, it consistently ranked first in the entire country on issues ranging from economics to employment and even education.
North Dakotans, it seems, absolutely love their state.
Based on thousands of interviews, Gallup found that North Dakota leads America in areas including:
- Citizens' satisfaction with their standard of living,
- Feeling like that quality of life is improving,
- Ranking the state economy as either excellent or good and getting better
- Ranking the local schools as either excellent or good and getting better
- Confidence in the state courts and government, and
- Citizens feeling like they were respected and enjoyed themselves "all day yesterday"
Of course, this may not be overly surprising for a tiny population awash in oil wealth. North Dakota has a population just larger than Detroit's, and since 2006 has experienced a huge boom in local and statewide petro money. In the past five years alone, oil production has quintupled, vaulting the state from 19th in nationwide per capita income to second, right behind Connecticut.
It's relatively easy to love your state when local companies can pump money right from the ground and good jobs are plentiful.
Still, that's not to discount what North Dakota has accomplished in such a short amount of time. The state has spent its money wisely, investing in the schools, housing and infrastructure that residents now rank as among the best in the nation. Local industry in the largely overlooked state has also caught up beyond the oil fields, leading to North Dakota enjoying the lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. for the past four years running. According to governor Jack Dalrymple, quoted by the study, "oil is a very thick frosting on a very nicely baked cake."
However, much as it's a good time to get a job or go to school in Bismarck, social issues haven't gone away. Out of every single topic surveyed by Gallup, North Dakota ranked below average in just four:
- Good place for racial and ethnic minorities
- Good place for immigrants
- Good place for gay or lesbian people, and
- Helped a stranger yesterday
--Written for MainStreet by Eric Reed, a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the subjects of career and travel. You can read more of his work at his website www.wanderinglawyer.com.