Every year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ask people a question: how satisfied are you with your life?
Every year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ask people a question: on a scale of very satisfied to very dissatisfied, how satisfied are you with your life?
Researchers at Harvard University and the University of British Columbia compiled those answers into a working paper, controlling for demographics like age and time of year. The paper, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research in July, equates life satisfaction with happiness.
Pennsylvania cities did not fare well. Scranton ranked as the least happy metro region in the U.S. Erie was the third unhappiest, and Johnstown was sixth.
Among larger metro areas, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were both among the least happy. New York, for reference, was number one on the unhappy list.
But not to worry, Pennsylvania Rust Belt towns. Joshua Gottlieb, co-author of the study and assistant professor of economics at the University of British Columbia, says happiness isn’t everything.
“Our conclusion is that people have other objectives, and they’re not simply trying to maximize happiness. They might very well trade off happiness against incomes, or job opportunities, or local real estate costs or potentially a variety of other personal factors.”
Pennsylvania cities still have something to offer, Gottlieb says. “Despite the low happiness and despite the population declines, there are still many people living in major cities in the Rust Belt,” he says. “They clearly still get something out of that. There are clearly benefits that these cities are providing.” Gottlieb says happiness isn’t everything, and he cautions policymakers not to make it their number one goal to improve happiness in a certain place.
The study’s authors caution policymakers not to make it their number one goal to improve happiness in a certain place.
Some people don’t agree with the happiness rankings anyway. Visit Philly, the marketing arm of Philadelphia, points out that the city has received many accolades, including being named one of the 25 Most Beautiful Cities in America by Budget Travel in 2014.
For more on this topic, read our recent interview about the connection between urban design and happiness.