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article imageSurvey reveals top ten most miserable cities in United States

By Robert Myles     Jul 23, 2014 in World
Vancouver - New research from the Vancouver-based University of British Columbia homes in on the unhappiest cities in the United States.
The state of Virginia is in the enviable position of taking the top two slots in the roll-call of the most agreeable metropolitan areas. Richmond-Petersburg, VA comes out tops for cheerfulness among metropolitan areas with a population of more than 1 million, followed in second place by Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News, VA.
At the other extreme, New York has the dubious accolade of being the most down-in-the-mouth one-million-plus metropolis with a pessimistic Pittsburgh, PA in second place.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The analysis, co-authored by Joshua Gottlieb of the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics and Harvard University’s Edward Glaeser and Oren Ziv, finds that some young people are still willing to relocate to even the most melancholy metropolises is search of job opportunities and lower house prices. Overall the research suggests people may be willing accept a trade-off between happiness for other gains.
In general residents of declining cities appear less happy than other Americans. But although people may still be willing to move to cities, perceived as being past their best, for the reasons stated above, newer residents don’t add to such cities happiness quotient. The study found that those who’d recently taken of residence in declining cities were just as unhappy as longer term residents.
Gottlieb and his co-authors investigated which regions of the U.S. tend to report lower life satisfaction. They found that residents of declining cities appear less happy than those who live in other parts of the U.S. — no surprise there, perhaps — but with even new arrivals failing to boost declining cities’ overall happiness, that suggests, say the researchers, that such cities’ dolefulness is persistent over time. The authors say historical data indicates that cities currently in decline were also unhappy even in their more prosperous past.
In some areas, it would seem, the glass is always half empty.
Oh woe is me!
The working paper “Unhappy Cities,” was released last week by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research. It relies on a large survey that asked respondents about their satisfaction with life. This measure, often interpreted as a measure of happiness, indicates that individuals may willingly to put up with reduced happiness in exchange for higher incomes or lower housing costs.
Commenting on the findings, co-author Gottlieb said, “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.”
“This means that researchers and policy-makers should not consider an increase in reported happiness as an overriding objective,” he added.
The top ten happiest and unhappiest one-million-plus metropolitan areas and similar tables for smaller conurbations appear below:
Top 10 happiest metropolitan areas with a population greater than 1 million (as of 2010):
1. Richmond-Petersburg, VA
2. Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News, VA
3. Washington, DC
4. Raleigh-Durham, NC
5. Atlanta, GA
6. Houston, TX
7. Jacksonville, FL
8. Nashville, TN
9. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL
10. Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ
Top 10 unhappiest metropolitan areas with a population greater than 1 million (as of 2010):
1. New York, NY
2. Pittsburgh, PA
3. Louisville, KY
4. Milwaukee, WI
5. Detroit, MI
6. Indianapolis, IN
7. St. Louis, MO
8. Las Vegas, NV
9. Buffalo, NY
10. Philadelphia, PA
U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest reported happiness:
1. Charlottesville, VA
2. Rochester, MN
3. Lafayette, LA
4. Naples, FL
5. Baton Rouge, LA
6. Flagstaff, AZ
7. Shreveport, LA
8. Houma, LA
9. Corpus Christi, TX
10. Provo, UT
The least happy American regions are:
1. Scranton, PA
2. St. Joseph, MO
3. Erie, PA
4. South Bend, IN
5. Jersey City, NJ
6. Johnstown, PA
7. Non-metropolitan West Virginia
8. Springfield, MA
9. New York, NY
10. Evansville-Henderson, IN-KY
The full study “Unhappy Cities” is available for download from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
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