BY: AYA TSINTZIRAS
A paper co-authored by academics at the University of British Columbia and Harvard has discovered the happiest and least happy cities in the United States.
Joshua Gottlieb and his co-authors Edward Glaeser and Oren Ziv also discovered that people will be okay with feeling less happiness if they make more money or can pay less for housing, so young adults are okay moving to the places considered the least happy if those factors exist.
The paper, released by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research, uses data from a series of telephone surveys answered by more than 350,000 people called the Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System.
There is a direct correlation between cities that are considered to be “declining” and people who say they have less satisfaction with their lives. The data shows that unhappy cities were still unhappy in better economic times. An example is Detroit, which still had a general feeling of hopelessness even when its manufacturing industry was booming.
Of the happiest cities with a population of more than 1 million (the data is from 2010), Richmond-Petersburg, Virginia topped the list, and Washington, DC came in third. New York City was the unhappiest city with the same population, with Detroit coming in at number 5. The least happy cities included three small towns in Pennsylvania along with Jersey City, New Jersey.
Some factors for a city’s unhappiness include run-down areas, crime, and the general aesthetics of the place. A freelance writer, Dana McMahon, wrote about the fact that she lives in two of the unhappiest cities for Pacific Standard and included an interesting quote from Trinity College’s 1997 research paper that mainly focused on abandoned buildings: “Urban blight is transmitted through vicious circles in which urban decay leads to social changes which then result in further decay.”
Urban thinker Richard Florida’s Globe and Mail March 2014 article called “10 Rules for a City’s ‘Quality of Place’” examined the concept of happiness in cities and argued that if a city is diverse and aesthetically pleasing, the people living there will be happier. Some of his factors for happiness include enough density (coffee shops, restaurants, etc.), good transit, safety, and creativity and diversity, which he believes go together.
Florida also wrote in The Atlantic in March 2011 that how much money people make is significant, and that unemployment usually coincides with how unhappy residents are. As he sees it, “Perhaps most dangerously, Americans are divided by their sense of happiness and well-being. Along with everything else that polarizes us, America increasingly faces an increasingly unequal geography of class and happiness.”