Saturday, April 28, 2007

Schools, Spending, and Educational Outcomes

A community must be educated to be conscious!
Is your local school district spending enough on student education? Is that even the right question? Maybe a better one is: "Is spending on education cost-effective in getting the desired educational outcomes?" We have a major problem in many districts nationwide in helping our kids to learn and attain the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed. By the way, the schools parents, the community, and students all have a role to play in attaining these outcomes.
U.S. public school districts spent an average of $8,287 per student in 2004, up from the previous year’s total of $8,019. In all, public elementary and secondary education received $462.7 billion from federal, state and local sources in 2004, up 5.1 percent from 2003.
Findings from the 2004 Annual Survey of Local Government Finances – School Systems show that New Jersey spent $12,981 per student in 2004 -- the most among states and state equivalents -- the U.S. Census Bureau reported today. Utah, at $5,008, spent the least per student.
New York ($12,930) and the District of Columbia ($12,801) were second and third in spending per student. Vermont ($11,128) and Connecticut ($10,788) rounded out the top five. Along with Utah, Idaho ($6,028), Arizona ($6,036), Oklahoma ($6,176) and Mississippi ($6,237) comprised the lowest five in money spent per student.
The state governments contributed the greatest share of public elementary and secondary school funding at $218.1 billion. In 2004, state governments contributed 47.1 percent of school funding, down from 49.0 percent in 2003. Local sources contributed 43.9 percent at $203.3 billion. The federal government’s share, which came to $41.3 billion in 2004, rose from 8.4 to 8.9 percent.
Other findings:
Public school systems spent $472.3 billion, up 4.1 percent from 2003. Spending on elementary-secondary instruction increased from $236.0 billion in 2003 to $245.2 billion in 2004. About $138.5 billion was spent on services that support elementary-secondary instruction, and $52.3 billion was spent on capital outlay.
Instructional salaries totaled $170.6 billion in 2004, up 2.2 percent from 2003.
The tabulations contain data on revenues, expenditures, debt and assets for all individual public elementary and secondary school systems.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Liberal Communities

Which communities are most liberal in their politics, lifestyle and values? ePodunk has an answer to this question.
ePodunk considered the following data in making our selections:
Individual contributions to PACs: It analyzed 1.8 million contributions to 2,300 political action committees that could be identified as Democratic/Liberal or Republican/Conservative. This data, for the 2003-2004 election cycle, was downloaded from the Federal Election Commission on Nov. 9.
Election returns: Unofficial election results in the 2004 presidential race were reported at the county level for every county in the U.S., and at the local level for many New England communities.
Gay households: This index was compiled from the U.S. Census by Gary Gates, a demographer at the Urban Institute and co-author of The Gay and Lesbian Atlas. Figures were included for the 1,360 U.S. communities in which 50 or more couples reported living in such relationships.
Local government resolutions opposing combat in Iraq
Local officials performing gay marriages
Congressional District voting history(Note: Because this factor was part of the screen for rankings, Washington, D.C., which does not have congressional representation, was excluded from our study. Washington residents who do not live in the White House showed strong liberal leanings in their votes for president and political contributions. The city also has a large number of gay households.)
BIG CITIES (100,000 or more) Boston, MA Cambridge, MA Berkeley, CA Oakland, CA San Francisco, CA New Haven, CT Providence, RI New York, NY Baltimore, MD Seattle, WA
MEDIUM CITIES (25,000-99,999) Northampton, MA Somerville, MA Arlington, MA Watertown, MA Santa Cruz, CA Alameda, CA Ithaca, NY Portland, ME East Palo Alto, CA Chelsea, MA
SMALL CITIES (Under 25,000) Provincetown, MA Mount Rainier, MD Albany, CA Fairfax, CA Garrett Park, MD Orono, ME Takoma Park, MD Guerneville, CA Bar Harbor, ME Johnson, VT
MOST LIBERAL IN STATE (For selected states) AZ - Flagstaff CA - Berkeley CO - Telluride CT - Salisbury FL - Wilton Manors GA - Decatur IA - Iowa City IL - Oak Park KS - Lawrence MA - Boston MD - Mount Rainier ME - Orono MI - Ferndale MN - Golden Valley MO - Kansas City NC - Carrboro NH - Hanover NJ - Montclair NM - Santa Fe NY - Ithaca OH - Oberlin OR - Lincoln City PA - Philadelphia RI - Providence TX - Bellaire VA - Baileys Crossroads VT - Johnson WA - Vashon WI - Madison

Monday, April 23, 2007

Latest Local Area Personal Income Data

Personal income grew faster in 2004 than in 2003 in most of the nation's metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), according to estimates released today by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Fewer than one in six MSAs grew slower in 2004 than in the previous year. Most of these slower growing MSAs are in the Great Lakes Region and have a relatively large motor vehicle manufacturing sector.
Income growth in the faster-growing MSAs reflects faster growth in wages per job as well as in employment and population. Wages per job increased 4.1 percent in the faster-growing areas, one percentage point more than in the slower-growing areas. Average employment growth was 1.4 percent and population growth was 1.1 percent in the faster-growing areas. In contrast, employment growth of 0.4 percent did not keep pace with population growth of 0.6 percent in the slower-growing areas.
Almost 100 MSAs lost population or employment or both during the year. Nevertheless, personal income increased in all but five MSAs and per capita income grew in all but seven MSAs. Per capita income grew faster than inflation (2.6 percent as measured by the national price index for personal consumption expenditure) in all but 19 MSAs.
Per capita income rankings. The table below lists the MSAs with highest and lowest per capita incomes. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut continued to have the highest per capita income of all MSAs in 2004. The average income of $62,979 was nearly double the national average and more than four times greater than the last place MSA. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington is new to the top ten, displacing Sebastian-Vero Beach, Florida. The special Microsoft dividend paid at the end of 2004 contributed to Seattle's rise since many of the largest shareholders live there.
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas continued to have the lowest per capita income of all MSAs. Its average income of $15,460 was less than half of the national average. Nine of the ten MSAs with the lowest per capita incomes in 2003 also had the lowest incomes in 2004. Las Cruces, New Mexico is new to the bottom ten this year, displacing Madera, California.
Source: US Bureau of Economic Analysis

Saturday, April 21, 2007

American Community Survey: A Resource for You

Here is a community data source you should know about. The American Community Survey (ACS) is a new nationwide survey designed to provide communities a fresh look at how they are changing. It is a critical element in the Census Bureau's reengineered 2010 census plan. The ACS collects information such as age, race, income, commute time to work, home value, veteran status, and other important data from U.S. households. As with the official decennial census, information about individuals will remain confidential.
Three Million Households to be Surveyed
The ACS collects and produces population and housing information every year instead of every ten years. About three million households are surveyed each year, from across every county in the nation. Collecting data every year reduces the cost of the official decennial census, and provides more up-to-date information throughout the decade about trends in the U.S. population at the local community level.
Expanding Local Coverage
The ACS began in 1996 and has expanded each subsequent year. Data from the 2005 ACS are available for geographic areas with a population of 65,000 or more, including 761 counties, 436 congressional districts, 602 metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, all 50 states, and the District of Columbia.
Access the survey data here.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Blacksburg, Virginia: Getting to Know the Community

We are all saddened by the Virginia Tech tragedy. Our hearts go out to the students and faculty members killed and injured by this Monday's shooting massacre. We pray for healing and peace for the Virigina Tech community and the Town of Blacksburg.
The recent tragedy got me to thinking about Blackburg, a community I have heard many wonderful things about over the years. You may find the results of a 2006 community survey to be of interest in light of this tragedy.
In 2006, citizens of Blacksburg, VA participated in a major community survey sponsored by the National Citizen Survey. Here are some highlights of the survey results.
As assessed by the survey, about 11% of Blacksburg residents have lived in thecommunity for more than 20 years and 23% are over age 34. Another 5% are over age 64. Seventy-one percent are currently employed; 70% rent; 30% own and 26% live in detached single family homes. Over 94% of Blacksburg residents have at least somecollege and 28% have annual household incomes above $50,000. Four percent of Blacksburg residents reported that they are Spanish, Hispanic or Latino and 84% saidthey are White or Caucasian. Quality of Life
When asked to rate the overall quality of life in Blacksburg, 26% of respondents thought it was “excellent.” Only 1% rated overall quality of life as “poor.” In 2006, the rating Blacksburg as a place to raise children received an average rating of 72 on a 100-point scale in 2003, compared to 70 in 2006.
Ratings of Community Characteristics
In 2006, the highest rated characteristics of Blacksburg were overall image/reputation of Blacksburg, overall appearance, and sense of community. The average rating on a 100-point scale given to overall appearance of Blacksburg in 2006 was 67 compared to 69 in 2003. When asked about potential problems in Blacksburg, the three concerns rated bythe highest proportion of respondents as a “major problem” in 2006 were traffic congestion and too much growth. In 2006 11% rated traffic congestion as a “major problem” compared to 13% in 2003.
Perceptions of Safety
When evaluating safety in the community, 85% of respondents felt “somewhat” or “very safe” from violent crimes in Blacksburg in 2006, compared to 89% in 2003. In their neighborhood after dark, 85% of survey participants felt “somewhat” or “very safe” in 2006, compared to 91% in 2003. In 2006, as assessed by the survey, 11% of households reported that at least one memberhad been the victim of one or more crimes in the past year. In 2003, 13% of households had reported that at least one member had been a crime victim. Of those who had been the victim of a crime in 2006, 60% had reported it to police.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

World Cities with Highest Quality of Life

Zurich (pictured to left) and Geneva are the best cities in the world as far as quality of live is concerned, says Mercer Consulting in a survey published in April 2007. Vancouver (Canada) is placed third, followed by Vienna (Austria), Auckland (New Zealand), Düsseldorf (Germany) and Frankfurt (Germany). Paris, London and Madrid are in the lower half of the top-50 table. Overall, Baghdad is not surprisingly the lowest ranking city in the survey.
Other cities in Europe and Australia continue to dominate the top end of the rankings for overall quality of living. In fact, there are very few changes in the top half of the 2007 table. Auckland and Düsseldorf share joint fifth place and score 107.3 points. Frankfurt and Munich follow with scores of 107.1 and 106.9 respectively. Bern and Sydney both score 106.5 points and share joint 9th place. However, Paris is only ranked 33rd, with London in 39th place. Madrid improved from 45th, in 2006, to 42nd place in 2007. Oslo gains five places at the expense of Dublin, which drops to 27th place.
The analysis is based on an evaluation of 39 quality-of-living criteria for each city including political, social, economic and environmental factors, personal safety and health, education, transport and other public services.
Baghdad remains the world’s least enticing city for expatriates with a score of 14.5. Other low-scoring cities for overall quality of living include Brazzaville in Congo (29.5), Bangui in the Central African Republic (30.6) and Khartoum in Sudan (31).
The survey makes clear that in recent years, the gap between low-ranking and high-ranking cities had widened. “While standards have improved in some regions, there remains a stark contrast between those cities where overall quality of living is good and those experiencing political and economic turmoil,” the authors say. Source: CityMayors

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Community Profile: Chapel Hill, NC

Chapel Hill is a town in North Carolina and the home of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), the oldest state-supported university in the United States. As of the 2000 census, it had a population of 48,715. As of 2004 its estimated population was 52,440.
The 2005 Metropolitan Population was: 1,509,560, for The US Office of Management and Budget's Metropolitan Combined Statistical Area known as Raleigh-Durham-Cary (formerly known as the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Metropolitan Statistical Area).
Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh make up the three corners of the Research Triangle, so named in 1959 with the creation of the Research Triangle Park, a research park between Durham and Raleigh. Since the early 1980s, the bedroom community of Cary, near Raleigh, has grown to be more than twice the size of Chapel Hill.
As is typical of college towns, Chapel Hill has historically tended to be politically liberal. In fact, disgruntled conservatives have referred to the town as "The People's Republic of Chapel Hill." Former U.S. Senator Jesse Helms once called the town a "zoo" and suggested it be "walled off" from the rest of North Carolina.
In addition to the high per capita income and highly educated adult population, residents of Chapel Hill have made public education a priority; resulting in Chapel Hill being widely recognized for the quality of its school system, which it shares with Carrboro. Chapel Hill's two high schools, East Chapel Hill High and Chapel Hill High, are rated as the 38th and 74th best high schools in the U.S. by Newsweek, respectively.
The town also shares with Carrboro a vibrant music scene. Cat's Cradle in Carrboro is often rated as one of the best clubs in the country for live music, and Local 506 and other Chapel Hill bars (such as the Cave, and Reservoir) often host local, national, and international acts in all genres. Valient Thorr, The Squirrel Nut Zippers, Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, James Taylor, Southern Culture on the Skids, and Ben Folds Five are among the notable musical acts whose careers began in Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill has also been a center for the modern revival of old-time music with such bands as the Hollow Rock String band, the Fuzzy Mountain String band and the acclaimed Red Clay Ramblers.
Chapel Hill was also the founding home of now defunct indie label, Mammoth Records and is also the founding home of another top indie label, Yep Roc Records which is owned by Redeye Distribution. Bruce Springsteen has also made a point to visit the town on several tours. His most recent appearance was on September 14, 2003 at Kenan Stadium with the E Street Band, and his fourth appearance overall. U2 also played at Kenan on the first date of their 1983 "War Tour" where Bono infamously climbed up to the top of the stage, during pouring rain and lightening, holding up a white flag for peace.
Also, Chapel Hill is rapidly becoming somewhat of a hot spot for pop American cuisine – which is likely due to the college town's entrepreneur-friendly business startup environment and national media attention surrounding a few local culinary notables, like Foster’s Market (Martha Stewart’s Living), Caffé Driade (Food Network’s “$40 A Day With Rachael Ray”), The Cackalacky Classic Condiment Company (Food Network's "BBQ With Bobby Flay" and "Rachael Ray's Ball Park Cafe Special," Comedy Central's "Insomniac," OLN's "BBQ All Star Showdown," Associated Press, Public Radio International, etc.), and The Lantern Restaurant (Food & Wine Magazine, Southern Living Magazine, etc.)
The area of Chapel Hill and Carborro combined is home to many hip, independently owned coffee shops (such as Open Eye Cafe, 3 Cups, Caffe Driade, and Padgett Station) and bars.
The Morehead Planetarium was, when it opened in 1949, one of only a handful of planetariums in the nation, and it has remained an important town landmark. During the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, astronauts were trained there. One of the town’s hallmark features is the giant sundial, located in the rose gardens in front of the planetarium on Franklin Street. UNC-CH has been very successful at college basketball and women’s soccer (Mia Hamm played as an undergraduate at UNC) and an obsession with the sport has been one of the most distinctive features of the town's culture, fueled by the rivalry among North Carolina's four ACC teams: the UNC Tar Heels, the Duke Blue Devils, the NC State Wolfpack, and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. More recently, the town has received regional notice as the site of a large annual Halloween street party, with an attendance regularly exceeding 70,000.
The colorful brick wall of an alley: one of many murals in Chapel Hill by artist Michael J. Brown. For more than thirty years Chapel Hill has sponsored two annual street fairs, Apple Chill (which was canceled in 2006 due to increasing violence in April and Festifall in October. The fairs offer booths to artists, craftsmen, nonprofits, and food vendors. Performance space is also available for musicians, martial artists and other groups. Both fairs are attended annually by tens of thousands.
Like many college towns, Chapel Hill has some unique retail opportunities. A Southern Season is based in Chapel Hill, although it also serves a wider audience through its mail-order business. Chapel Hill also has some village communities, such as Meadowmont Village and Southern Village. Meadowmont and Southern Village both have shopping centers, green space where concerts and movies take place, community pools, and schools.
Chapel Hill, or at least the town center, indeed sits atop a hill--originally called New Hope Chapel Hill after the chapel once located there. The Carolina Inn now occupies the site of the original chapel. The town was founded, in 1819, to serve the University of North Carolina and grew up around it. The town was chartered in 1851, and its main street, Franklin Street, was named in memory of Benjamin Franklin.
In 1968, only a year after its schools became fully integrated, Chapel Hill became the first predominantly white municipality in the country to elect an African American mayor, Howard Lee. Lee served from 1969 until 1975 and, among other things, helped establish Chapel Hill Transit, the town's bus system. Some 30 years later, in 2002, legislation was passed to make the local buses free of fares to residents and visitors alike, leading to a large increase in ridership; the buses are financed through Chapel Hill and Carrboro city taxes as well as UNC-CH student fees.
In the latter part of the 20th century, the town grew considerably and became wealthier, with affordable housing and combating urban sprawl emerging as major local issues.
By the late 20th century, higher proportions of the local population worked at jobs unrelated to the university; town surveys indicated that a majority of people working in the town were no longer able to afford in-town housing, and so many people working for the university itself weren't able to afford to live in Chapel Hill, or even Carrboro, that charter bus lines were doing a brisk business in almost nothing but bringing in from nearby counties a workforce of secretaries and others on which the university depended.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

New Census Report: Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Survey

Community consciousness depends upon connectivity. Companies located in them and people living in them must be connected to high-powered information and communication systems. The Census Bureau just released its 2005 ICT survey results. Interesting stuff!
<--Click on image to enlarge.
Supplemental to the current Annual Capital Expenditure Survey (ACES), the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Survey collects investment figures related to technology falling below a company's capitalization threshold. This survey is sent to a sample of approximately 46,000 private non-farm employer businesses operating in the United States.
The ICT survey collects industry-level data for two equipment categories of non-capitalized expenses (purchases and operating leases/rental payments) and two software categories of non-capitalized expenses (purchases and licensing and software service/maintenance agreements).
There are four types of ICT equipment and software (computer and peripheral equipment; ICT equipment excluding computers and peripherals; electromedical and electrotherapeutic apparatus; and computer software (including payroll for developing software). Companies report data for industries in which they operate and incur non-capitalized expenses. Industries in the survey are comprised of 3-digit and selected 4-digit North American Industry Classification System codes.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Federal Reserve Board, Bureau of Labor Statistics and industry analysts use these data to evaluate future productivity and economic growth prospects. In addition, the proposed survey provides improved source data significant to the BEA's investment component of gross domestic product, capital stock estimates, capital flow tables and permits the reconciliation of important differences between reported production and consumption of technology.
Publications in PDF and Spreadsheet

Monday, April 16, 2007

Fastest-Growing Metro Areas Concentrated in West and South

According to population estimates released today for all metro areas by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Atlanta metro area gained 890,000 residents from April 1, 2000, to July 1, 2006, the largest numerical gain of the nation’s 361 metro areas.
This Georgia metro area (Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta) was the nation’s ninth largest as of July 1, 2006 with a population of 5.1 million. Overall, six metro areas each gained at least 500,000 people between 2000 and 2006.
Dallas-Fort Worth had the second largest numeric increase at 842,000, and totaled about 6 million people. Houston (with an increase of 825,000), Phoenix (787,000) and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (771,000) rounded out the top five metro area gainers over the time period. The five metro areas experiencing the greatest numeric change between 2000 and 2006 were in the South or West. (See Table 1 Excel PDF.)
The Northeast metro area with the greatest numeric change between 2000 and 2006 was New York (seventh overall nationally), while the Midwest metro area with the greatest numeric change over the same period was Chicago (10th overall nationally).
New York was the most populous metro area on July 1, 2006, with 18.8 million people, followed by Los Angeles (13 million) and Chicago (9.5 million). Fourteen metro areas had populations of 4 million or more. (See Table 2 Excel PDF.)
The New Orleans metro area experienced the greatest numeric loss from April 1, 2000, to July 1, 2006, declining 292,000 since 2000 to 1 million on July 1, 2006. It was followed by Pittsburgh (a loss of 60,000) and Cleveland (a loss of 34,000). The New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, La., metro area also had the biggest percentage loss during the same time period at 22.2 percent. It was followed by Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss. (a loss of 7.4 percent) and Weirton- Steubenville, W.Va.-Ohio (a loss of 5.2 percent).
St. George, in the southwestern part of Utah, was the fastest-growing metro area between 2000 and 2006, with a growth of 39.8 percent to total 126,000 on July 1, 2006. Rounding out the top five were Greeley, Colo. (31 percent); Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla. (29.6 percent); Bend, Ore. (29.3 percent); and Las Vegas (29.2 percent). (See Table 3 Excel PDF.)
The 50 fastest-growing metro areas were almost evenly distributed between just two regions — 23 in the West and 25 in the South. One metro area, Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Ark.-Mo., straddled both the South and Midwest regions. Sioux Falls, S.D., was the lone metro area among the top 50 fastest-growing located completely in the Midwest. Of the 50 fastest-growing metro areas, none were in the Northeast. York-Hanover, Pa., the fastest-growing metro area in the Northeast, ranked 95th.
Source: US Census Bureau

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nonprofit Arts and Economic Prosperity

First released in 1994 and updated in 2002, Arts & Economic Prosperity II reveals that America's nonprofit arts industry generates $134 billion in economic activity every year, including $24.4 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues. The $134 billion total includes $53.2 billion in spending by arts organizations and $80.8 billion in event-related spending by arts audiences: -The $53.2 billion represents a 45 percent increase (from $36.8 billion) since 1992, when Americans for the Arts last studied spending by arts organizations.
-The $80.8 billion in event-related spending by arts audiences reflects an average of $22.87 per person in spending for hotels, restaurants, parking, souvenirs, refreshments, or other similar costs—with nonlocal attendees spending nearly twice as much as local attendees ($38.05 compared to $21.75).
-The $134 billion in total economic activity has a significant national impact, generating the following:
-4.85 million full-time equivalent jobs
-$89.4 billion in household income
-$6.6 billion in local government tax revenues
-$7.3 billion in state government tax revenues
-$10.5 billion in Federal income tax revenues
Arts & Economic Prosperity II is based on surveys of 3,000 nonprofit arts organizations and more than 40,000 attendees at arts events in 91 cities in 33 states, plus the District of Columbia.
Note: Arts and Economic Prosperity III will be released May 2007.
Source: Americans for the Arts

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Understanding City Forms: Theoretical Discussion

According to faculty members at MIT, three core models have given form to cities throughout history. These are discussed below briefly. (Click on map to left to enlarge it.) The point of including this article on Conscious Communities is that we need to be aware of the "form" of communities.
The Cosmic Model
In the cosmic model, the assertion is that the form of a permanent settlement should be a magical model of the universe and its gods. Such a crystalline city has all of its parts fused into a perfectly ordered whole and change is allowed to happen only in a rhythmically controlled manner. To achieve such form, specific phenomena are included, such as returning, natural items, celestial measurement, fixing location, centeredness, boundary definition, earth images, land geometry, directionality, place consciousness, and numerology. These are acknowledged in creating the city's form by devising methods for finding a good site, making boundaries, subdividing land, determining a center, connecting to celestial forms, fixing coordinates, controlling change, determining social structure, codifying rules, coordinating physics and metaphysics, and reinforcing form through ritual.
The debates about the origin of cities: the spiritual significance in city genesis, argued by Adams, Rykwert, and Mumford, for example, versus the materialist arguments, such as those of Childe, Sjoberg and Jacobs, are discussed in the light of the cosmic model. Examples of the cosmic model are examined in the cases of Roman and Middle Eastern cities (Jerusalem and Babylon) and in cities in China (from the Han to Ming dynasties), India (the significance of the texts on habitation, the mandala form, Jaipur and Madurai), and in Mesoamerica (Teotihuacan, Tenochtitlan and the Mayan cities).
Machine Model
The concept of the city as analogous to a machine has a long history: it occurs often when there is no long-term goal in mind but the settlement has to be created hurriedly and its future growth will be determined by still unforeseen forces. Its form requires a few simple rules in order to get on with the urbanizing task and the outcome is factual, functional and without any attachment to the mystery of the universe. Among its attributes are convenience, speed, flexibility, legibility, equality, and speculation.
These are explored in a set of cases from the 3rd century BC to contemporary times. The workers' dwellings built rapidly close to Egyptian mortuary sites are gridded in a per strigas form, "monotonously alike…, the very pattern of mechanically devised industrial dwelling." Unlike the form of their capital city, the Greek colonial trading cities of the 5th to 3rd centuries BC are made up of equalized rectangular blocks to allow a democracy of lots to its settlers and, according to Mumford, to provide the legibility necessary in a new climate of commercial trade. Despite Rykwert's assertions of the role of metaphysics in Roman city building, rules of castramentation (the cardo and decumanus alignments and equal lots) and centuriation (the fusing of urban and rural land geometries) dominate the creation of the 5,267 settlements built by the Romans. The 13th century colonial expansion of the 177 Bastide towns in south-western France follow an orthogonal order of a pair of double axes marking a center and surrounding equal-sized chequers. Perhaps the most complete and widely imposed practical handbook of city building instructions come from the colonization of the Americas by Spain according to the Laws of the Indies proclaimed in 1573. These laws govern site selection, street and block layout, orientation, central plaza, public buildings, walls, common lands, the distribution of lots, and even the style of buildings.
The American land expansion, both religious and commercial, to the west is examined in the light of "grids of expediency", as is the 19th century expansion of the Manhattan grid as a system which "is the most cheap to build and the most convenient to live in." The assertions of Mumford and Sennett of the capitalist/grid relationship are challenged in this discussion. Finally, many of modern machine appropriations in city form, such as linearity, are explored as are many of the metaphorical attempts to link the form of cities, Archigram, for instance, to those of machines.
Organic Model
The third great normative model, which claims the city to be analogous to a living organism, is more recent, arising with the growth of biology in the 18th and 19th centuries. Its advocates are often critical of other models: the German urbanist, Hans Reichow, in his 1948 book on organic city planning, architecture, and culture, for instance, condemns "simple grids" or "products of the Grand Manner" as "static." The theory of the organic city rests on a number of assumptions about the nature of organisms. Among these is the assertion that an organism is an autonomous individual, that it has a definite boundary and is of a specific size. It does not change merely by adding parts but through reorganization as it reaches limits or thresholds. It contains differentiated parts but form and function are always linked. The whole organism is homeostatic, self-repairing and regulating toward a dynamic balance. Cycles of life and death are normal to organisms as is rhythmic passage from one state to another. From this flows the notion of the form of the organic city. It is a separate spatial and social unit made up internally of highly connected places and people.
A healthy community is heterogeneous and diverse, as in balance as the nuclear family. The micro unit is the neighborhood, a small residential area, defined by Clarence Perry in 1929 as the support area for an elementary school, to which children, the most vulnerable of the human species, can safely walk. Like organisms, settlements are born, grow and mature, and if further growth is necessary, a new entity has to be formed. Thus there are states of optimum size, beyond which pathological conditions ensue. Greeenbelts not only ensure an intimate contact with nature but enclose healthy growth. This model has typical physical forms, among which radial patterns, anti-geometrical layouts, and a proclivity for natural materials. Often the organic idea is extended regionally to connect settlements to valleys, trails and other extended natural systems. There is an attraction to small-scale modes of production or services as opposed to large-scale synthetic processes. Often the model aligns itself with a socio-economic philosophy that sees increases in urban value as the result of communal rather than individual endeavor.
Three cases are examined to locate these principles in practice. In the first case, the ideas and projects of Patrick Geddes are surveyed including his synoptic vision (folded paper, Valley Section, and plan for the Hebrew University), the need for civic inclusion (Outlook Tower), and the benefits of conservative surgery and cultural retention (Indian projects). The second case covers the work of Ebenezer Howard and his attempts to balance country and city, the garden city idea in the plans of Letchworth and Welwyn Garden city, and the details of density, landscape and site planning in the association of the organic with the picturesque. The third case covers the regionalism of the American plans of the early 20th century, the ideas of heterogeneous balance and Georgian socio-economic philosophy in the urban projects of Stein and Wright, including Mayer's plan for Chandigarh.
Source: MITOpenCourseWare: Theory of City Form

Friday, April 13, 2007

Economic Development in Tribal Communities

Here are some key ovbservations from a recent report on tribal entrepreneurship, commissioned by the Northwest Area Foundation.
Closing the information gap about the state of Native entrepreneurship. There is currently very little quantitative data and corresponding analyses about the state of the private economy on Native reservations and the numbers and characteristics of Native entrepreneurs and their businesses in both rural and urban areas. Not only is there insufficient data, but there is also no centralized, comprehensive resource that provides information on the array of entrepreneurship development services currently available to Native Americans. There is still significant research that needs to take place to effectively “make the case” for the importance of entrepreneurship for Native communities.
Addressing barriers to successful business launch and growth. Nationally, the number of Native individual entrepreneurs has grown significantly in recent years, but in many states, Native individuals still own businesses at a much lower rate per capita than other groups and currently earn less revenue than their non-Native counterparts. Native entrepreneurs face a variety of barriers to successful business launch and growth. While some of these barriers apply to other minority and rural populations, research shows that the barriers such as limited basic infrastructure, remoteness from markets, a lack of an economic base, inexperience with financial and business management, and insufficient business development and financing resources are particularly severe in Native communities.
Characterized by some as “America’s domestic emerging market,” the increased success of some Native businesses, combined with a high demand for financing, training and technical assistance, presents significant opportunities for both investors and service providers alike to meet the needs of this emerging market niche Implementing culturally appropriate strategies. While there is some debate about the cultural relevance of individual entrepreneurship as an appropriate economic development strategy for Native communities, available research and interviews confirm that tribal leaders and Native economic development officials see individual entrepreneurship as compatible with Native culture (past and present) and as a vehicle for tribal economic sovereignty. Underlying this general agreement however is the acknowledgement that Native entrepreneurship development strategies will not succeed without taking into account the differences between Native and non-Native cultures.
Building on effective practices currently underway. The numbers of creative public-private partnerships and Native not-for-profit organizations have increased over the last decade to address the barriers facing Native entrepreneurs and to facilitate community entrepreneurship development strategies. While these are still in their early stages of development and generally not linked to mainstream initiatives, an increasing number of institutions and programs are working to enhance supports for Native entrepreneurs through policy development, education, training and technical assistance, financing, and networking initiatives. These efforts, some of which are documented in this report, can serve as models and resources for tribes and Native organizations nationwide interested in implementing entrepreneurship development strategies in their local communities.
Providing entrepreneur-focused services that are comprehensive and coordinated.
This report identifies a set of principles for ensuring that a community has the right climate or culture in which Native entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship can flourish including culturally relevant, entrepreneur-focused, community driven strategies. An effective entrepreneurship development system coordinates a plethora of programs and tailors products to the diverse needs of entrepreneurs, incorporating all of the elements of support for a comprehensive strategy including youth entrepreneurship education, effective training and technical assistance, ready access to appropriate capital, entrepreneur networks, and a supportive policy and cultural environment. Anchor institutions, a supportive public policy, and an information infrastructure are also all essential components of a comprehensive system
Source: Native Entrepreneurship Report, by Northwest Area Foundation

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Snapshot of Omaha, NE

Omaha is the largest city in the U.S. state of Nebraska. It is the county seat of Douglas County. As of the 2000 census, the city had a population of 390,007. According to the 2005 census estimate, Omaha's population rose to 424,988 after annexing the smaller City of Elkhorn.
Located on the eastern edge of Nebraska, it is on the Missouri River, about 20 miles (30 km) north of the mouth of the Platte River. Omaha is the anchor of the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area. Council Bluffs, Iowa lies directly across the Missouri River from Omaha. The city and its suburbs formed the 60th-largest metropolitan area in the United States in 2000, with a population of 819,246 (2006) residing in eight counties or about 1.2 million within a 50-mile (80 km) radius.
Omaha has a rich cultural and historical legacy. Cultural highlights include the Joslyn Art Museum, the Durham Western Heritage Museum, the Holland Performing Arts Center, and the Omaha Community Playhouse. It was home to the 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition, and was the location of the winter quarters for settlers on the Mormon Trail. It has also been the location of important events in the Civil Rights Movement. It is also a business center listed as a top 10 high tech haven by Newsweek in 2001. Although crime in Omaha is comparable to other U.S. cities of similar size, racial tension and the scourge of methamphetamines are social issues.
Learn more here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

History of West Lafayette, IN

"In the wilderness days, West Lafayette as it is known today was an entire wilderness. Its tangled forests and undisturbed prairies were the haunts of wild beasts and the homes of wandering Indians. Only here and there were to be seen traces of civilization with its many hardships and privations incident of frontier life. Still the same beautiful Wabash River founds its way undisturbed." - Charles T. Stallard, "Brief History of West Lafayette"
The first group of pioneers settled in the West Lafayette area soon after the town of Lafayette was founded in the late 1820's. Called "Jacktown," this settlement was located at the top of a rather steep hill above the Wabash River at North Chauncey and State streets. In 1836, the first town of West Lafayette was laid out by August Wylie on the banks of the Wabash River, opposite the gravel bar south of the present railroad bridge and near the present West Lafayette Wastewater Treatment Plant. The gravel bar was used to cross the river during low water. The town consisted of 140 building lots. But it never succeeded due to the realization that it was situated on the flood plain of the Wabash River.
Next, the town of Kingston was platted up the hill on April 3, 1855. The area consisted of four squares and included the area now bounded by Northwestern Avenue, Salisbury Street, North Street and South Street. A large lot at the northeast corner of the town at North and Salisbury streets was marked off for a school lot. The present site of Morton Community Center - formerly Morton School - was designated as a school site. The land was owned by Jesse B. Lutz and his wife, Jane.
The Chauncey family, wealthy land speculators from Philadelphia, purchased neighboring land and on January 16, 1860, the town of Chauncey was platted. The town of Chauncey included the land south of State Street and east of Grant Street to the river, and the land north of State Street and east of Salisbury Street to the river. It included North River Road to the current Water Company Pumphouse and Robinson Street, then a plank road. By 1864, the area included about two dozen homes and five main roads. Everything south of State Street and east of Salisbury Street consisted of forest land.
In January of 1866, a group of interested citizens of Kingston, Chauncey and other surrounding communities met at the Kingston School to organize, incorporate and name the town. They eventually decided to call their town Chauncey in honor of the Chauncey family. The town received its charter in the fall of 1867. On May 21, 1888, the town of Chauncey voted to change its name to West Lafayette after a petition signed by 152 electors, and this change became official on May 28, 1888. The name change was requested because the town of Chauncey did not have a post office, and mail addressed to Chauncey would not be delivered.
As an incorporated town, West Lafayette was then able to establish its own government and school system. Very few of the original buildings remain, and those that do no longer appear in their original condition.
Source: City of West Lafayette, IN

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Top Retirement Communities

Bizjournals compared 938 markets in eight statistical categories looking for places where the number of senior citizens is substantial and increasing rapidly.
Behind Gardnerville Ranchos on the list of America's hottest retirement areas are Punta Gorda, Fla.; Pahrump, Nev.; Crossville, Tenn.; and Homosassa Springs, Fla. Each of these top-five markets is reasonably small, with a total population between 40,000 and 160,000. (Click here for a list of the 100 hottest retirement destinations).
Gardnerville Ranchos ranks first because of its striking performances on several indicators: Nineteen percent of its residents are 65 or older. That's a higher concentration than 900 of the nation's other 937 markets have. Its senior population soared by 45 percent between 2000 and 2005. That's nine times the national growth rate of five percent for the same age group. Its number of seniors increased 46 percent faster in five years than its number of children did. That's the largest imbalance anywhere in America.
Bizjournals also pinpointed the most popular communities in 10 groups that reflect the varying interests of retirees. These categories focus on markets of similar size, geography or topography. A broad range of areas offers the quality of life that attracts today's retirees, as the findings makes clear. (Click here to view the top choices in each category.)
Hordes of Eastern and Midwestern retirees are still drawn to Florida and the Southwest, the traditional warm-weather havens. But other locations have been growing in popularity, including the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the Great Lakes region.
Some retirees are more interested in a specific type of community -- by the beach, in a big city or in a small town, for example -- than in its geographical location. Urban markets: Sarasota-Bradenton tops this list, which is restricted to metropolitan areas with at least half a million people.
Small towns: The Gardnerville Ranchos micropolitan area, with 47,000 residents, is first here, followed by another Nevada town, Pahrump. This category is limited to places with fewer than 50,000 people.
Florida: Punta Gorda tops this grouping, the only one that's confined to a single state. Homosassa Springs and Sebring are the runners-up.
Rest of the Deep South: Del Rio, Texas, is the hottest option for retirees who want a warm-weather alternative to Florida. Markets in South Carolina and Georgia also score well. Atlantic Coast (Maine to North Carolina): This category encompasses a wide range of climates. Ocean Pines, Md., with its popular beaches, ranks No. 1. But colder places in Massachusetts and Maine also make the top 10.
Great Lakes: Michigan has emerged as a popular retirement option in the past 25 years, a trend reflected in these standings. Three Michigan areas top the list, with Alpena in first place.
Pacific Coast: Don't look for California here. It doesn't have a single entry in the top 10. The leader is Brookings, Ore., followed by Port Angeles, Wash.
Mountains: Both halves of America are represented in this topographical category. No. 1 Gardnerville Ranchos is far west of the Mississippi River, while No. 2 Crossville, Tenn., is well to the east.
Southwest: Pahrump, Nev., is the winner in this group, which takes in the deserts and tablelands of six states. Silver City, N.M., and Lake Havasu City, Ariz., round out the top three.
Great Plains: Flatlanders find Albert Lea, Minn., most appealing. It's one of five Minnesota communities among this category's 10 leaders. Iowa and South Dakota have two entries each.
Source: BizJournals

Monday, April 9, 2007

Profile: Rye, New York

First Settlement
Rye is the oldest permanent settlement in Westchester County. It began in 1660 when Peter Disbrow, John Coe and Thomas Studwell came from Greenwich with a small group of settlers. They were joined by John Budd the following year. Their first treaty with the Mohegan Indians gave them the land between Milton Point and the Byram River (Peningoe Neck); then the mile-long “Manussing” Island. Within several years their combined purchases comprised all of what is now the City of Rye, Town of Rye, Harrison, White Plains, parts of Greenwich, North Castle, and Mamaroneck.
Settlement Named Rye
In 1665, Connecticut merged these settlements under the name of Rye after ancestors in Rye, England. In 1683, Rye was ceded unwillingly to the Province of New York by King Charles II as a gift to his brother, the Duke of York. But when a New York court severed the Harrison area from the settlement in 1695, the Rye colonists rejoined Connecticut in protest. In 1700, Rye again became part of New York by royal decree, this time permanently. The New York State Legislature officially established the Town of Rye boundaries in 1788.
Early Business and Recreation
For two centuries, Rye remained a secluded community. Land was cleared for farming and cattle grazing. Docks were built on Long Island Sound, and oystering was an important occupation. Homes along Mill Town Road, now Milton, led to grist mills on Blind Brook.
Communication with the outside world came slowly. The Rye-Oyster Bay ferry, which began service in 1739, was a great community event. The New York-Boston stagecoach made its first run in 1772 using the Square House, then an Inn, as a stopping place. Rye to New York steamboat service and completion of the New Haven Railroad in the mid 1800’s made Rye a popular summer resort. Horseracing on “The Flats” (Rye Beach) was a special attraction.
Rye Thrives at the Turn of the Century
In the late nineteenth century, Rye experienced its first real growth and change. The era of the trolley made surrounding communities accessible. (Through a series of careful transfers, one could travel all the way to New York for eight cents.) By 1904, there were two schools, five churches, a library, and a lively population of 3,500 residents.
Rye Becomes a Village
The growing community became dissatisfied with the services of the Rye Town Board, on which it had no representation. The Rye Village Incorporation League organized public meetings; “letters to the editor” debated the merits of independence. The Legislature passed a bill of incorporation and on September 12, 1904, a special election was held at Theodore Fremd’s market. The taxpayers voted 155 in favor, 47 opposed - and Rye became a village.
The Post-War Boom
During the 1920’s, the post-war boom and the advent of parkways and commuter trains brought a rush of prospective suburbanites and summer residents to the flourishing village. This was Rye’s greatest period of growth and by 1930, there were nearly 9,000 people.
Rye Becomes a City
As Rye developed, the residents began to desire complete independence from the Town government. City status offered many advantages, one being relief from paying a disproportionate share of the Town welfare tax. In 1940, the Legislature approved the Rye City Charter which was adopted by the residents 1,172 to 34. On January 1, 1942, Rye became Westchester’s sixth and smallest city.
Rye History in the Making
Today, the City of Rye is a unique blending of the old and the new. Now a residential, suburban community with every facility for modern living, it still retains its traditional atmosphere of tranquil village life as well as many historic landmarks that bind it to its three-hundred year history.
Still small as cities go (1990 census population: 14,936), Rye is primarily a place in which to live rather than to make a living. One-third of Rye’s working residents commute to New York City, 25 railroad miles away. Others are employed in Westchester, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Long Island as well as in the 200 small businesses and several large firms located here.
Community Characteristics
The dominant characteristic of the community is one of single-family homes that cover about three-fifths of Rye’s six square miles. Another fifth of the land is devoted to recreation and conservation. The balance is divided between institutions (such as The Osborn, churches, and city property) and vacant land, with a slim 5% of all property in Rye used for business and industry.
Careful planning and controlled growth have protected the overriding community objective - to retain its residential character. Of the 5,400 households, two-thirds live in private homes; the rest are housed in condominium, cooperative, two-family or apartment buildings - a balance which has been purposely maintained.
Natural Endowments
Rye’s remarkable natural endowments - a protected harbor along Long Island Sound, varied rolling landscapes, tree-lined streets, and winding brooks - enhance its many attractive neighborhoods. Community interest in recreation and preservation of open spaces has been considerable. The purchase of a 127-acre private country club, doubling of capacity at the marina on Milton Harbor, and expansion of the Nature Center to 47 acres all reflect the wishes of the citizens.
Present-Day Business
Campus-type office buildings for corporations in a few selected areas have been of economic benefit to the community. The central business district, primarily intended to serve local residents, has been confined to the Purchase Street area.
Zoning regulations that control density, height, and use of property have successfully kept tower apartments, motels, shopping centers and manufacturing plants out of Rye. Ample lands have been set aside for schools as well as for shopper and commuter parking.
Source: City of Rye Website

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Conscious Communities Create Economic Value

For some time, I have believed that the model of community economic development must shift to one that speaks more directly to the issue of value creation relative to local and state economies. Performance metrics have become more important to nearly all ED organizations. ED managers and executives, and board leaders to a degree, are giving greater attention to using performance measurement and monitoring as tools to improve organizational results and area economic outcomes.
Jobs are great. High-paying jobs are even better. Wealth creation is vital. Broad-based prosperity-building has become more important. Tech transfer is important. Technology commercialization is more important. All of you know how this conversation about intended outcomes of the economic development is unfolding.
I propose that one of the future jobs of economic development leaders should be local economic value creation. I think the issue is value creation, and approaching the discussion in these terms will help leaders understand their role in the value creation process.
To bring this issue into sharper focus, please click here to download a presentation I gave to the Connecticut Legislature on this topic five years ago. I would welcome your thoughts on this issue. It is vitally important to the future of economic development.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Beacon Hill Institute Metro Competitiveness Rankings

The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University prepares an annual report on state and metro area competitiveness. The Table to the left identifies the metro area rankings for its most recent 2005 report.
<--To enlarge the graphic to the left, click on it.
To learn more about the the index, its ranking criteria, and other information, click on this link. Download the metro/state competitiveness report here.
The Beacon Hill Institute has adopted the following mission and vision statements.
Statement of Mission
Grounded in the principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets, the Beacon Hill Institute engages in rigorous economic research and conducts educational programs for the purpose of producing and disseminating readable analyses of current public policy issues to voters, taxpayers, opinion leaders and policy makers.
Statement of Vision
The Beacon Hill Institute is a world-renowned learning and research center that develops and performs innovative economic and statistical analyses of current and emerging public policy issues. It aims to strengthen that function by: providing local, state, national and international research entities with state-of-the-art tools and economic analyses, partnering with a PhD granting department of economics, and expanding its reputation for providing objective analysis to examine and influence public policy.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Three Qualities of "Conscious Leadership"

Conscious communities need 'conscious' leadership. What is conscious leadership? According to Farr Associates, a executive and organization development firm based in High Point, NC, conscious leaders possess three key qualities:
Quality 1: You must have the skill to gain insight into the follower's mind, concerning his situation, and how they perceive you. In particular, you must know what they perceive as negative. Since sensible followers are reluctant to say negative things to anyone who has power over their work lives, mapping out negative perceptions takes a good deal of leader skill. A leader can break down any reluctance to give feedback by supporting the efforts of followers to work in a way that satisfies both themselves and their company. A good leader knows and consistently uses some of the many techniques for learning follower's needs and assessing how they experience their environment. Leaders need to create and manage a system of feedback loops that keep them in permanent touch with follower mindset, so they lead professionally with maximum impact.
Quality 2: To be a powerful leader, you must present your "leaderself" to others, rather than your "naturalself." Good leaders do not always do what comes as a natural expression of their personalities. Instead, they come from a leaderself that is designed and created to do exactly the leadership behavior called for by the situation. They fit the leader role rather than make the role fit them. It is amazing how often poor leadership occurs because leaders do what comes naturally from their personalities rather than what is needed to be effective.
Quality 3: To create an effective “leaderself”, you must operate from self-awareness rather than from an automatic mind. For many leaders, this is unbelievably difficult, because they are unaware of much of what they do and of the perceptions they create in others. They act on automatic pilot, focusing attention on what they want as an end outcome in the business, with little or no thought on how they want the follower to feel, see and change their behavior. They lead with too much focus on what they want done, rather than from an awareness of followers' mindset. Often, the personality traits that make for effective managers can make them terrible leaders, especially once their role expands beyond leadership, based on their personal charisma and implementation skills.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Douglas County, Nevada: Smart Growth Debates Continue

Creation of the hotly debated growth cap in Douglas County, Nevada has development and environment interest groups locking horns. The County includes Lake Tahoe and a portion of the Sierra Nevada range.
Two, 2.5 percent, 3 percent and 3.5 percent caps on residential building permits, in addition to a flat rate of 280 permits a year as approved by Douglas County voters in 2002 are being considered. Voters approved the Sustainable Growth Initiative, which limits the number of housing permits issued in Douglas County to 280 a year, in 2002. A series of court rulings and legal wrangling followed.
A report by Meridian Business Advisors advocates a flexible cap to "protect the economic viability and quality of life Douglas County now enjoys." The Meridian report, which states that growth pays for itself and is necessary for the generation of adequate tax revenues, was funded by the Coalition for Smart Growth.
The 280-permit cap, which represents a growth rate of about 2 percent, would require up to $124 million worth of new taxes or service cuts.
A growth cap limiting the number of new homes to 2.5 percent annually would reduce that need by up to $33 million and a 3.5 percent growth cap would reduced that need by $55 million, according to the Meridian report.
Development interests recently came forward with their arguments why development rules should be loosened in the County. Read what they have to say here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Could a Community Happiness Index be Possible in the Future?

How many of you recall a parent telling you when you were a child that the most important thing in life is to be happy? I certainly do, and my parents were right. Happiness has been treated by most of us as strictly a subjective experience or state of mind. Now, researchers are trying to understand happiness in a more analytical way.
A University of Leicester psychologist has produced the first ever 'world map of happiness.' Adrian White, an analytic social psychologist at the University's School of Psychology, analyzed data published by UNESCO, the CIA, the New Economics Foundation, the WHO, the Veenhoven Database, the Latinbarometer, the Afrobarometer, and the UNHDR, to create a global projection of subjective well-being: the first world map of happiness. Tibet was actually the first country to use a Gross National Happiness Index as a substitute for a Gross National Product Index. (His Holiness The Dalai Lama pictured above)
White's research looks at happiness at the national level. Would it be possible to create an communtiy index of happiness?
The projection, which is to be published in a psychology journal this September, will be presented at a conference later in the year. Participants in the various studies were asked questions related to happiness and satisfaction with life. The meta-analysis is based on the findings of over 100 different studies around the world, which questioned 80,000 people worldwide. For this study data has also been analysed in relation to health, wealth and access to education.
Whilst collecting data on subjective well-being is not an exact science, the measures used are very reliable in predicting health and welfare outcomes. It can be argued that whilst these measures are not perfect they are the best we have so far, and these are the measures that politicians are talking of using to measure the relative performance of each country.
The researchers have argued that regular testing as a collaboration between academics in different countries would enable us to track changes in happiness, and what events may cause that. For example what effect would a war, or famine, or national success have on a country's members' happiness. .
Adrian White said: "The concept of happiness, or satisfaction with life, is currently a major area of research in economics and psychology, most closely associated with new developments in positive psychology. It has also become a feature in the current political discourse in the UK. "
There is increasing political interest in using measures of happiness as a national indicator in conjunction with measures of wealth. A recent BBC survey found that 81% of the population think the Government should focus on making us happier rather than wealthier.
"Further analysis showed that a nation's level of happiness was most closely associated with health levels (correlation of .62), followed by wealth (.52), and then provision of education (.51). In short, this says that health, wealth and education are the three leading drivers of happiness. Interesting!
"The three predictor variables of health, wealth and education were also very closely associated with each other, illustrating the interdependence of these factors.
"There is a belief that capitalism leads to unhappy people. However, when people are asked if they are happy with their lives, people in countries with good healthcare, a higher GDP per capita, and access to education were much more likely to report being happy.
"We were surprised to see countries in Asia scoring so low, with China 82nd, Japan 90th and India 125th. These are countries that are thought as having a strong sense of collective identity which other researchers have associated with well-being.
"It is also notable that many of the largest countries in terms of population do quite badly. With China 82nd, India 125th and Russia 167th it is interesting to note that larger populations are not associated with happy countries."
"The frustrations of modern life, and the anxieties of the age, seem to be much less significant compared to the health, financial and educational needs in other parts of the World. The current concern with happiness levels in the UK may well be a case of the 'worried well'."
The 20 happiest nations in the World are:
1. Denmark
2. Switzerland
3. Austria
4. Iceland
5. The Bahamas
6. Finland
7. Sweden
8. Bhutan
9. Brunei
10. Canada
11. Ireland
12. Luxembourg
13. Costa Rica
14. Malta
15. The Netherlands
16. Antigua and Barbuda
17. Malaysia
18. New Zealand
19. Norway
20. The Seychelles
Other notable results include:
23. USA
35. Germany
41. UK
62. France
82. China
90. Japan
125. India
167. Russia
The three least happy countries were:
176. Democratic Republic of the Congo
177. Zimbabwe
178. Burundi Source: Science Daily