Speed Reads

Numbers don't lie

New York is America's 'unhappiest city' — and the 5 happiest are in one unexpected state

New York is the unhappiest city in America, according to a recent study from researchers at Harvard and the University of British Columbia. New York City was joined by Gary, Indiana, and three cities from Pennsylvania — Scranton, Erie, and Pittsburgh — in the Top 5 unhappiest cities. The five happiest? They're all in one state. NBC's Brian Williams does the honors:

The economists who analyzed the CDC data — Harvard's Edward Glaeser and Oren Ziv, and Joshua Gottlieb at the Vancouver School of Economics — weren't trying to bum out New Yorkers or create a buzz-worthy listicle, they were trying to figure out something much more interesting: Why are some cities persistently unhappy, and why do people choose to live there anyway?

Their tentative answer to the second question is that "the desires for happiness and life satisfaction do not uniquely drive human ambitions," and "humans are quite understandably willing to sacrifice both happiness and life satisfaction if the price is right." People in New York and other "unhappy" cities are compensated for their "misery," the authors write, and the residents of Louisiana — plus Charlottesville, North Carolina; Naples, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota — should be glad they stay there:

If we choose only that which maximized our happiness, then individuals would presumably move to happier places until the point where rising rents and congestion eliminated the joys of that locale. ["Unhappy Cities," via Harvard Gazette]

How does your city stack up? Here's their map, from the paper "Unhappy Cities," published by the National Bureau for Economic Research. Blue is happy; red is sad. --Peter Weber