Toward an Index of Well-Being for the Fifty U.S. States

Bryan J. Pesta, Cleveland State University
Michael A. McDaniel
Sharon Bertsch


Well-being is a construct spanning multiple disciplines including psychology, economics, health, and public policy. In many ways, well-being is a nexus of inter-correlated variables, much like the g nexus. Here, we created an index of well-being for the geographical and political subdivisions of the United States (i.e., states). The measure resulted from hierarchical principal components analyses of state-level data on various hypothesized sub-domains of well-being, including general mental ability, education, economics, religiosity, health, and crime. A single, general component of well-being emerged, explaining between 52 and 85% of the variance in the sub-domains. General mental ability loaded substantially on global state well-being (.83). The relationship between global well-being and other important state-level outcomes was examined next. We conclude by offering parallels between the g nexus and the well-being nexus.