When evaluating community well being, statisticians tend to focus on objective criteria such as average income, tax levels, educational achievement, life expectancy and the like. But there also are subjective criteria involving how people feel about things. Gallup Inc., the polling organization, has partnered with Healthways, a well being and wellness provider to employers, to measure how people feel.
According to the Gallup-Healthways 2016 Community Well-Being Rankings, inhabitants of two metros in Virginia are feeling pretty darned good about themselves: Charlottesville and Lynchburg. Charlottesville scored fifth out of 189 metros on the survey, Lynchburg 8th.
Virginia’s other metros didn’t fare so well. Washington ranked 44th, Richmond 106th, Virginia Beach 107th, and Roanoke 168th. The state of Virginia scored a meager 21st among the 50 states.
The big question is, how did Charlottesville and Lynchburg do it? One thing they have in common with each other and other high-scoring metros is size. Their populations are small compared to other metros. Big metros did not fare well in this survey. Also, both are big college towns — the University of Virginia in one, Liberty University in the other. But otherwise, they would seem to have little in common. Politically, the Charlottesville area leans liberal/Democrat, Lynchburg conservative/ Republican. Charlottesville leans secular, Lynchburg leans religious.
Still, both communities scored high in the “social” ranking — “having supportive relationships and love in your life.” Charlottesville did especially well in the “physical” component of the index, having good health and energy, while Lynchburg excelled in its community feeling, “liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community.”
Bacon’s bottom line: Gallup/Healthways provide a useful service by quantifying community attributes that aren’t captured in government statistics. There’s more to life than GDP and household income. That’s always worth remembering.