By Jessica Gulseth
Red, yellow, and orange leaves dance in the wind all across the upper Midwest. As temperatures fluctuate between high 40s and low 60s, many might find it hard to think about the quickly approaching winter.
North Dakotans and Minnesotans alike know all too well the mounds of waist-high snow. Some wish they could escape to a sandy beach in Hawaii.
However, a recent poll says the state of palm trees and sunshine isn’t happier than the state of good old North Dakota.
The Gallup Job Creation Index’s recent poll named the state the happiest in the country, pushing the long time frontrunner, Hawaii, out of first place.
The state jumped from 19th to first in just a year, but what makes North Dakotans the happiest of all? The Gallup poll says it ranks among the highest for the best work environment.
NDSU student Courtney Hestdalen says she loves both of her jobs.
“I work for the Dacotah Foundations, which houses homeless addicts, and I work for Atonement Lutheran Church doing children’s ministry,” she said.
The state has also seen an increase in jobs over the last five years and has an unemployment rate under 3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
According to businessinsider.com, residents have an average income of $51, 893 per year.
Hestdalen said both of her jobs are great, and so is the money.
“They pay really well and my co-workers at both places are caring and helpful,” she said.
Hestdalen has lived in North Dakota her whole life. Growing up, she couldn’t wait to get out of state. She feels differently now.
“Now, I don’t think I want to live anywhere else,” she said. “I love North Dakota, and it’s where I would want to raise a family.”
While Hestdalen isn’t surprised North Dakota is ranked number one, long-time Minnesota resident and MSUM student Julie Ashburn feels differently.
“It surprises me,” she said.
Ashburn has lived in Minnesota for the last 15 years.
“First of all, everything in North Dakota is spread out and flat,” she said. “There are not as many attractions either. Minnesota has the Mall of America, Duluth, and a lot more.”
While the Gallup poll says North Dakota is number one, Wallethub.com says the neighboring state of Minnesota ranks second in the competition for happiest state.
“That makes sense to me,” Ashburn said. “This is my home. You can live in a place where you get the best of both worlds, small town living, but big town feel.
Minnesota is ranked second in emotional and physical health.
“That makes sense too. Here, you have to be active, otherwise you just get stuck inside all the time. In the winter, people get out more, and do a lot of snow sports to keep busy,” she said.
Hestdalen and Ashburn may have to agree to disagree, but the Gallup poll has a tried and true system to figuring out who’s happiest.
The Gallup poll interviewed 178,000 Americans across all 50 states. They surveyed in six different categories: life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities. They rank each state on a scale of 0-100 and North Dakota scored a 70.4.
“The people here are so friendly and everyone watches out for each other and the space.” Hastdalen said. “We are always thankful for what we have and we are hard workers.”