Home / Articles / Five positive data points for World Happiness Day

National park acreage is increasing.

With over 85 million acres as of 2019, national parks are larger than ever. The latest coronavirus stimulus bill, which passed in mid-February 2021, included a provision elevating New River Gorge in West Virginia from a national preserve to the country’s 63rd national park. This added 72,000 acres to the National Park System.

Between 2000 and 2019, the US added 772,000 acres of national park land — 17 times the size of Washington, DC.

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The number of women in Congress is at an all-time high.

With 123 women in the House of Representatives and 21 women in the Senate, female representation in the nation’s highest legislative body is higher than ever. Although this still doesn’t match the US population’s 51% female share, it’s still more than double the number of women who served in the 106th Congress (1999-2001).

College graduation rates are increasing.

Nationally, graduation rates are on the rise for four-year colleges and universities. In 2018, over 62% of students graduated within six years of enrolling, compared to 55% in 2002. This is largely due to steady improvements in both public and private nonprofit institutions — for-profit institutions continue to report lower and more inconsistent rates. These rising rates are important for practical reasons, as well: failing to complete a degree saddles students with debt without the long-term boost to earnings potentially conferred by a college degree.

Graduation rates have generally increased since 2002.

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The divorce rate is dropping.

Census data presents a few ways to view the dropping divorce rate. One measure that looks at the population of currently divorced people as a share of people who have been ever married shows the rate dropped slightly from 14.8% in 2015 to 14.3% in 2020.

Another measure shows the number of male and female Americans over the age of 15 who have gotten a divorce in the past year. That rate of divorce for women dropped from 8.3 per 1,000 in 2015 to 7.6 per 1,000 in 2019. For men, the rate dropped from 7.9 per 1,000 in 2015 to 7.2 per 1,000 in 2019.

The rate of people divorcing each year dropped 9% between 2015 and 2019.

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Native Americans are gaining additional lands and federal support for entrepreneurship.

In 2020, the federal government added 11,760 acres to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe’s reservation and officially nullified an unenforced 1865 treaty that restricted tribal members in Oregon from leaving their reservations. The government also created a grant program supporting entrepreneurship in Native American communities. And this month, Deb Haaland, a member of New Mexico's Laguna Pueblo, became Secretary of the Interior — and the first Native American Cabinet secretary in US history.

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Acreage reports
Digest of Education Statistics, Table 326.10
American Community Survey