April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
It isn’t unusual to see articles in the newspaper and online showing which US cities have the best housing, which are best for retirees, and which are the friendliest for your pets. The newest in this trend is a study released by the US National Bureau of Economic Research which reveals the unhappiest cities in the country. Despite the unhappiness quotient of these cities, the researchers were surprised to find that young people were still willing to relocate to them for job opportunities or lower housing prices.
Professor Joshua Gottlieb of the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics led the study, which relies on a large survey that queries respondents about life satisfaction. The survey data, collected from the General Social Survey (GSS), the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), show that New York City tops the list of unhappy cities. According to Time.com contributor Sam Frizell, this is despite the more than 1 million inhabitants being amongst the highest paid people in the country. The researchers postulated that people in unhappy cities are paid more “presumably as compensation for their misery.”
Gottlieb and his colleagues Edward Glaeser and Oren Ziv from Harvard University said that life satisfaction is often interpreted as a measure of happiness, and the seeming contradiction of choosing to live in a city that is unhappy indicates that some people are willing to trade life satisfaction and happiness 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,” Gottlieb said. “This means that researchers and policy-makers should not consider an increase in reported happiness as an overriding objective.”
The Daily Mail reports that the researchers looked at urban decline as a possible source of the unhappiness. “Self-reported unhappiness is high in [many] declining cities, and this tendency persists even when we control for income, race and other personal characteristics,” the authors write. They report finding at least three examples in which urban decline is correlated with unhappiness.
“Differences in happiness and subjective well-being across space weakly support the view that the desires for happiness and life satisfaction do not uniquely drive human ambitions,” the authors write.
“If we choose only that which maximized our happiness, then individuals would presumably move to happier places until the point where rising rents and congestion eliminated the joys of that locale.”
The study findings included the four top ten lists: Happiest metropolitan areas with a population over 1 million, Unhappiest metropolitan areas with a population over 1 million, Happiest American regions, and Least happy American regions. The number one city in each category, respectively, are: Richmond-Petersburg, VA; New York City, NY; Charlottesville, VA; and Scranton, PA.