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The Happiest Startup Hubs, and Why You Might Want To Move

A new study finds that transplants quickly adopt the happiness levels of their new hometowns. Time to call the movers?

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 answers to this question have stayed pretty stable for years.

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.

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Last updated: Aug 15, 2014

KIMBERLY WEISUL | Staff Writer | Inc.com Editor-at-Large

Kimberly Weisul is editor-at-large at Inc. and co-founder of One Thing New, the digital media startup that is rebooting women's content. She was previously a senior editor at BusinessWeek.




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