Californians Can Buy Teslas - But Not Happiness

Han Yeung

April 1, 2022 (Last Modified April 2, 2022)

California represents 41% of nationwide electric car sales, a third of which are sold by Tesla. In Saratoga, these cars are not an uncommon sight, as multi-million dollar residences are the standard. Members of this community live a lavish, luxurious lifestyle which many in other states and neighboring areas envy. Meanwhile, Saratogans tend to be very unhappy and suffer from a great deal of hardship. From stress, to workload, to political ideologies, the peacefulness is gone in a snap. It has become more apparent after the start of the pandemic that many Saratoga residents, especially high schoolers, are unhappy with their current lives. “(My) chest felt extremely weighted by pain,” a friend of mine told me, as he described his experience with depression. It wasn’t just him: many felt different variants of this disease once seemed almost trivial in Elementary school.

In fact, this problem has been plaguing the state of California for at least a decade. With 1,993 undergraduate students participating from the Universities of Michigan, Ohio State, UCLA, and UC Irvine, a survey was conducted in 2008 by David Schkade and Daniel Kahneman of the Association for Psychological Science, titled “Does Living in California Make People Happy?” The questionnaire had Californians and Midwesterners from Michigan to Ohio reflect on their own lives, before imagining what the other group's lives would look like. Shockingly enough, even though Californians’ financial-related and security related topics were far better than the Midwest, the Midwest was more satisfied with their lives overall.

On the topic of job prospects, California leads with a 12% difference in satisfaction. The state is also doing better in financial situations, with a 23% difference. The Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) from Saint Louis collects data for topics related to finance, economics and business. Using this website, I was able to compare the median household incomes between the Midwest and California, to see just how much Californians actually make compared to the Midwesterners. At the time the survey was conducted, the two communities’ average income rates differed by a solid 30,000 dollars. With such a high pay gap, I would have concluded that Californians would be more satisfied with their lives, if the polling hadn’t suggested otherwise.

Looking closer, I noticed a 10% gap in academic opportunities, but this time with Midwesterners having a higher rate. Only 67% of Californians are confident in their academic skills, compared to 77% of Midwesterners. Furthermore, 5% more Californians think that they are safer compared to the Midwest, indicating that Midwestern areas have a larger safety issue, and live in a more dangerous environment than ours. And worst of all, the poll indicates that Californians are 10% more dissatisfied with their lives overall when compared to the Midwest.

One subject to blame for this dissatisfaction is academic opportunities. Growing up in a densely Asian-populated area, and having Asian parents myself, this didn’t really come as a surprise to me. Charles Darwin’s rule of the survival of the fittest comes into mind when researching this topic. Raised to believe that only a minority, a select few, would advance past the college applications and into their desired college, I was always taught  that only the smartest, the fittest, would win. As Saratoga gets more competitive, students’ work and stress loads only increase. And the threat of us Asians receiving harsh punishment from our  parents if we fail any assignment, really doesn’t help. Some of my friends sit at the top of our classes, sometimes with grades above their maximum limit. Though it is apparent to me that they would get into their desired colleges, very many aren’t confident at all in getting into the colleges of their dreams. That being said, what about the weaker ones, the less academically motivated students? Even in Saratoga, with students already significantly above average standards, they are faced with the ever-growing pressure of these prodigies, who appear more and more commonly with each new generation.

I decided to check the average household income rates again, but with more recent data this time. Needless to say, the average income rates between the two communities still exist. With a 46% lead, California’s median household incomes are $41,000 more than those of the Midwest. But of course, the cost of living is higher compared to The US Bureau of Labor provides data showing that California makes at least 22% more than many Midwestern states on average. Living in such wealthy areas would have onlookers assume that we live happier lives since those in the Midwest tend to face harsher challenges and climates. I also found that on average, on a scale of 100,000 people, mortality rates were higher by about 75% in areas of the Midwest like Wisconsin and Illinois. Lastly, I checked the unemployment rates. California’s unemployment rates were noticeably lower than the national average; the majority of the time lower than the Midwest, sometimes even by a full percentage point.

The time has come to finally address the problem once more, and after researching a sufficient amount of information, reviewing the data, and socializing with acquaintances, I came to a conclusion: people in Saratoga are too spoiled to be happy. Living in an area such as this city provides so much, too much, to the point where we forget about our duties and the things we are capable of doing. We have forgotten why our ancestors decided to move here. Instead of the happiness and prosperity they had once hoped for, Saratogans have dug a hole for themselves in which they don’t accept any outcome other than misery. Nominated as the 8th wealthiest city in the United States, Saratoga has so much to offer.

Of course, there are problems in this tiny city I’ve called “home” for nearly a decade. I understand the wave of intelligence, the crushing feelings of despair and depression, and the seemingly unscalable wall of standards that our environment and our schools have set. But multiple things can remain true at the same time. We need to be more grateful for our lives, our money, and our city, and be thankful for the things we have.