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Study reveals 'unhappiest' cities in the U.S.

Date:
July 22, 2014
Source:
University of British Columbia
Summary:
New research identifies the unhappiest cities in the U.S., but finds that some young people are still willing to relocate to them for a good job opportunity or lower housing prices. The analysis suggests people may be deciding to trade happiness for other gains.

A map of the U.S. which shows each metropolitan and rural area’s adjusted life satisfaction.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of British Columbia

New research identifies the unhappiest cities in the U.S., but finds that some young people are still willing to relocate to them for a good job opportunity or lower housing prices.

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The analysis, co-authored by Joshua Gottlieb of the University of British Columbia's Vancouver School of Economics, suggests people may be deciding to trade happiness for other gains.

The working paper "Unhappy Cities," released last week by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research, relies on a large survey that asks respondents about their satisfaction with life. This measure, which is often interpreted as a measure of happiness, indicates that individuals may willingly endure less happiness in exchange for higher incomes or lower housing costs.

"Our research indicates that people care about more than happiness alone, so other factors may encourage them to stay in a city despite their unhappiness," says Gottlieb. "This means that researchers and policy-makers should not consider an increase in reported happiness as an overriding objective."

Gottlieb and his co-authors investigated which regions of the U.S. tend to report lower life satisfaction, and found that residents of declining cities appear less happy than those who live in other parts of the U.S. Long-term residents of these cities appear equally as unhappy as newer residents, suggesting that the city's unhappiness persists over time. Historical data indicate that cities currently in decline were also unhappy in their more prosperous past.

Top 10 happiest metropolitan areas with a population greater than 1 million (as of 2010):

1. Richmond-Petersburg, VA

2. Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News, VA

3. Washington, DC

4. Raleigh-Durham, NC

5. Atlanta, GA

6. Houston, TX

7. Jacksonville, FL

8. Nashville, TN

9. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL

10. Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ

Top 10 unhappiest metropolitan areas with a population greater than 1 million (as of 2010):

1. New York, NY

2. Pittsburgh, PA

3. Louisville, KY

4. Milwaukee, WI

5. Detroit, MI

6. Indianapolis, IN

7. St. Louis, MO

8. Las Vegas, NV

9. Buffalo, NY

10. Philadelphia, PA

U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest reported happiness:

1. Charlottesville, VA

2. Rochester, MN

3. Lafayette, LA

4. Naples, FL

5. Baton Rouge, LA

6. Flagstaff, AZ

7. Shreveport, LA

8. Houma, LA

9. Corpus Christi, TX

10. Provo, UT

The least happy American regions are:

1. Scranton, PA

2. St. Joseph, MO

3. Erie, PA

4. South Bend, IN

5. Jersey City, NJ

6. Johnstown, PA

7. Non-metropolitan West Virginia

8. Springfield, MA

9. New York, NY

10. Evansville-Henderson, IN-KY


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Edward L. Glaeser, Joshua D. Gottlieb, Oren Ziv. Unhappy Cities. NBER Working Paper, 2014 DOI: 10.3386/w20291

Cite This Page:

University of British Columbia. "Study reveals 'unhappiest' cities in the U.S.." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140722103917.htm>.
University of British Columbia. (2014, July 22). Study reveals 'unhappiest' cities in the U.S.. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140722103917.htm
University of British Columbia. "Study reveals 'unhappiest' cities in the U.S.." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140722103917.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

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