It seems that people pick places to live on other variables than happiness:
If New York is so unhappy, why do so many people keep living there? That’s one of the many questions at stake in a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Researchers from Harvard and the University of British Columbia used people’s self-reported life satisfaction data from the CDC to try to determine a geography of American happiness. What they found is that among the biggest metropolitan areas, the Big Apple is the unhappiest. Scranton, Pennsylvania, takes the honor of the least happy metro area of any size. Meanwhile, Richmond is the happiest large metro area, and Charlottesville, Virginia, is the happiest of any size…..
The data also carries in it an insight into how people make major life choices. If people only sought to live in happy places, cities like Richmond and Charlottesville, Virginia would be swamped with people, while New York would be desolate. Clearly, that hasn’t happened.
“One interpretation of these facts is that individuals do not aim to maximize self-reported well-being, or happiness, as measured in surveys, and they willingly endure less happiness in exchange for higher incomes or lower housing costs,” they write.
That said, places with low income growth and low population growth also tend to be particularly unhappy, both currently and historically.
“[C]ities that have declined also seem to have been unhappy in the past, which suggests that … these areas were always unhappy — and that was one reason why they declined,” write the authors.
The upshot seems to be that people make decisions based on happiness, but only on a limited basis. So at least in the economics world, there’s more to life than being happy.
It seems that people go where the money or jobs are earlier in life and then often move to places that make them happy or that have lower taxes when they retire or maybe lower taxes makes them happy as they have more time to do other things with their money. The problem is that people ruin these places such as NYC etc. with their politics and then move to the lower tax states such as the South to retire and then try to ruin these places with their politics and the cycle continues.
image illustration via shutterstock / Ollyy