NEW BRUNSWICK and MADISON, NJ -- Garden State residents may complain about the high cost of living in New Jersey, but overall, they’re surprisingly happy.

 A recent joint survey from Rutgers University and Fairleigh Dickinson University finds that eight-in-ten New Jersey residents describe things in their life these days as happy, with one in five (21%) specifically saying “very happy”; another 60% say they are “pretty happy.”

Only 19% describe themselves as either “not too happy” (16%) or “not happy at all” (3%). These results are consistent with national polling on personal happiness.

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Some New Jersey residents are much happier than others, however. While men and women are equally content, key factors like race, education, and income make a difference.

White residents (23% “very happy,” 64% “pretty happy”) express greater happiness than either black residents (17% “very happy,” 62% “pretty happy”) or Hispanic residents (21% “very happy,” 50% “pretty happy”). Married couples are more likely to say they are “very happy” than those who are not married (26% to 16%).

Education also has an impact: 79% among those without a college degree say they are either “very” or “pretty” happy, vs. 84% among those with a college degree or higher.

Happiness increases with household income. Those in households making under $50,000 annually are about half as likely as those in households making $150,000 or more to say they are “very happy” (1 % versus 31%). Three in ten residents in the lowest income bracket say they are not happy (26% “not too happy,” 4% “not at all”), compared to less than one in five making between $50,000 and $100,000 and about one in ten making $100,000 or more.

“Happiness means different things to different people. But when the cost of living keeps going up, it’s not a surprise to see happiness appear elusive to those who are likely struggling the most to afford the basics,” said Krista Jenkins, director of the FDU Poll. “Even if money can’t directly buy happiness, it certainly helps.”

Political affiliation is also correlated with happiness. More than eight in ten Republicans and independents are happy (85% among independents, 82% among Republicans) compared to three-quarters (76%) of Democrats.

“Living in a state with one party Democratic rule isn’t casting much shade on Republicans or independents these days,” said Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers–New Brunswick. “But the reality is that these partisan differences are most likely picking up the different demographics that make up each party’s base. Lower income and non-white residents are more likely to be Democratic, while higher income and white residents are more likely to be Republican.”

The full analysis, along with the poll’s questions and tables, can be found on the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll website and the FDU Poll website.

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