How happy are you? If you live in New York, maybe not so much. Charlottesville, Virginia? You’re practically skipping to work.
A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research rates the happiness levels of hundreds of cities and metropolitan regions across the country. While it doesn't reveal the exact scores for all of them, it's clear that the happiness levels for startup hubs vary wildly. The study also provides a warning to anyone thinking of moving to Detroit, New York, or a similarly unhappy city to start their company: recent transplants to an unhappy place quickly adopt the (un)happiness levels of their new homes.
Charlottesville, on the other hand, is looking pretty good.
Here are the selected happiness rankings of some major metropolitan areas, from happiest to unhappiest:
1 Charlottesville, Virginia
6 Flagstaff, Arizona
26 Colorado Springs, Colorado
29 Washington, D.C.
56 Nashville, Tennessee
174 San Jose, California
179 Chicago, Illinois
187 Seattle, Washington
242 San Francisco, California
284 Boston, Massachusetts
287 Los Angeles, California
328 Detroit, Michigan
355 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
359 New York, New York
The research was conducted by Edward Glaeser and Oren Ziv, both of Harvard, and Joshua Gottlieb, of the Vancouver School of Economics. The trio found that significant differences in happiness levels persisted even after they controlled for factors such as income, race, and other personal characteristics. The differences in happiness are significant, but not huge. The data is drawn from an annual survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which asks people, "In general, how satisfied are you with your life?"
The results, in aggregate, have been relatively stable for years. About 45.6 percent of people say they are "very satisfied," 48.7 percent were "satisfied," 4.6 percent were "unsatisfied," and about 1.1 percent were "very unsatisfied."
It's not that unhappy people all cluster together. Instead, certain cities seem to somehow "make" people happier or not: recent transplants to Detroit, for instance, from happier places, soon become only as happy as the average long-term Detroiter. In general, low-growth places are unhappier, although high-growth places are not necessarily super-happy. There are many things you can't take with you -- but it looks like your happiness level is not one of them.