No, New York Is Not the Unhappiest City in America

Categories: Studies

happiness-map.jpg
National Bureau of Economic Research
A map of adjusted life satisfaction, after controlling for demographics and individual income.
Last week the National Bureau of Economic Research published a working paper, "Unhappy Cities," that was a collaboration between Harvard professor Edward Glaeser, Vancouver School of Economics professor Joshua Gottlieb and Harvard doctoral student Oren Ziv.

Researchers found that differences in a person's level of happiness depended on the city that person lives in, regardless of whether he or she has lived there his or her entire life or just relocated. The report ranked metropolitan areas in terms of happiness and, since rankings (no matter how arbitrary) are one thing reporters and readers just can't resist, "New York Is the Unhappiest American City" is the headline that emerged.


It's worth pointing out that the study doesn't say that New York City is the unhappiest city in the United States--it says its the fourth unhappiest city, only slightly unhappier than Pittsburgh.

Here's the order that actually appears in the study, along with each city's adjusted happiness rate ("adjusted" in this case means that researchers controlled for demographics).

Scranton, PA, -0.154
Erie, PA, - 0.147
South Bend, IN, -0.138
New York, NY, -0.123
Pittsburgh, PA, -0.115

If you re-rank the list using a new adjusted happiness rate that controls not just for demographics but also for income, only then does New York come out on bottom, followed by South Bend, Indiana; Erie, Pennsylvania; Detroit, Michigan and Gary, Indiana. (When researchers adjusted for neither demographics nor income, New York ranked second unhappiest after Gary.)

Income, it turns out, is actually pretty important, but we'll get to that later. First, let's talk about how happiness itself is defined in the study because its an interesting question in itself -- how does one measure happiness? In average endorphin levels? In minutes spent smiling? (In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cuuups of coffee?)


My Voice Nation Help
14 comments
BaldheadedMan
BaldheadedMan

i know NYC is the unhappiest city for BLACK MEN!  Everything horrible under the sun happens to them - choked, shot, stopped and frisked, and can't even catch a cab!

domin8er
domin8er

Why only 48 states?  What about the other 9?

Jacob Jefson
Jacob Jefson

Of course no one doing the research bothered with Alaska or Hawaii, regardless of the fact that they are states.

Fred
Fred

Maybe what the map really shows is where the chronically unhappy tend to go live?

Fred
Fred

Maybe what the map really shows is where the chronically unhappy tend to go live?

mickibc
mickibc

When I go home, I come alive - I am a different person - the waves below the pavement come up through the soles of my shoes and electrify me... I am looking forward to having a room in an apartment share in Washington Heights, near the subway, it looks like heaven compared to my three BR two bath house, where I need a car for EVERYTHING, here in VA.  Can;t wait.

Paul Felix
Paul Felix

new york is a city of happiness & humbleness

Sandra Skolnik
Sandra Skolnik

if the map is indicating that the south is happier, than its the type of happiness of a pig sitting in mud.

mbirlin
mbirlin

Guess you missed the large masses of LA, MS and MT that are solid blue.

mbirlin
mbirlin

Guess you missed the large masses in LA, MS and MT that are solid blue.

Now Trending

New York Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...