Does a strong ethnic identity make one happier? Racial activists argue that a person of color needs to develop a deep connection to his people in order to have a sense of rootedness, self-esteem, and even mental health. A belief in the importance of group identification is seen in this year's primaries. I keep hearing journalists say how women and blacks are finally really swept up in a presidential election, as if having one's own run for office is the only thing meaningful about politics.
I've never really bought the idea--for minorities, women, or white men for that matter--but it could be true, so let's look at the data. Using General Social Survey data, I calculated the percent of people who report being very happy:
Percent who are very happy
All Americans 31.9
American Indian 30.9
East Indian 30.1
Puerto Rican 23.5
West Indian 18.2
American minority groups are the most group conscious, and yet they are the least happy. By contrast, people of English and German ancestry identify with with their ethnic groups less than anyone, but they are at the top of the happiness list. A skeptic might argue that their unhappiness is due to poverty, but Chinese, East Indians, and Japanese are wealthy groups but still have below-average numbers.
By the way, all Americans from NW Europe are above average: this mirrors quite closely the patterns observed globally.
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