Published: 19:14 EST, 22 July 2014 | Updated: 09:52 EST, 23 July 2014
New York is America’s most unhappy region, a new study has found – while Richmond tops the table as American’s most contented place.
The study from the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research relies on a large survey that asks respondents about their satisfaction with life.
Why are the residents of some cities persistently less happy? Given that they are, why do people choose to live in unhappy places?’
The authors use data culled from the General Social Survey (GSS), the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to track citizens who move to areas where there are high levels of unhappiness.
They also examine the ways in which urban unhappiness can be offset by the benefits that may derive from higher incomes and other amenities.
Researchers say that despite this, areas such as New York still attract people because of its job prospects.
The analysis, co-authored by Joshua Gottlieb of the University of British Columbiaâ€™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.
Glaeser and his fellow researchers report finding significant differences in reported well-being across American cities, and at least three examples in which unhappiness is correlated with urban decline.
However they say the population decline itself is not responsible for the 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.
‘An alternative view is that humans are quite understandably willing to sacrifice both happiness and life satisfaction if the price is right…Indeed, the residents of unhappier metropolitan areas today do receive higher real wagesâ€”presumably as compensation for their misery.’