The happiest cities in the USA are in Louisiana

happiest cities list

happiest cities

I like lists and maps like these, although I take them as informed guesses rather than certain facts.  I know that people sometimes say they’re satisfied with their lives when they’re not, and vice versa, and I’d be interested to know what adjustments were made for income and demographics.

Still, the list and map are interesting.  Louisiana is a state with above-average poverty, violent crime and corruption, yet a survey finds that the five happiest cities in the USA are in that state.  Among the top 10 happy cities, six are in Louisiana, three are in other Southern states and only one is an affluent Northern city.

I don’t find this implausible.  I think Southerners on average, both white and black, have stronger family ties, a greater capacity for enjoying the simple things of life and an ability not to sweat the small stuff.

It’s interesting that New York City is the unhappiest city in the USA.   New York City has the greatest concentration of wealth of any U.S. city, but also a great gap between rich and poor.  I’d guess that New York City has one of the greatest concentrations of unsuccessful ambitious people among U.S. cities, and this certainly makes for unhappiness.

The other nine of the 10 unhappiest cities are declining industrial cities in the Midwest or Middle Atlantic.  Having good things and losing them generally makes people more unhappy than if they never had the good things in the first place.  However, the authors of the study say these places seem to have been unhappy before they went into decline.

My home city of Rochester, N.Y., is among the moderately unhappy cities, according to this map.  I learn from the interactive version in the Washington Post that we rank 248th in happiness among 318 cities studied.  I myself am highly satisfied with my life and so, for the most part, are my friends.

But then the majority of my friends are college-educated white people like me.  The Rochester area has a wide disparity between rich and poor, so my experience may not be representative.

One thing about Rochester is that it is cloudy.  We have many overcast days and a lot of rain and snow.  This is said to cause something called “seasonal affective disorder”.  I notice that most of the happy blue cities are in the sunny South or Southwest or the scenic Rockies.

The San Francisco and Silicon Valley areas have great concentrations of unhappiness, yet people want to move there.  Money isn’t everything, but maybe happiness isn’t everything either.


The appeal of unhappy cities by Emily Badger and Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post.

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2 Responses to “The happiest cities in the USA are in Louisiana”

  1. John Pennington Says:

    Studies of happiness are always interesting, but I usually end up thinking, “How on Earth did they reach that conclusion?” Living in San Francisco, I don’t see the misery they report at all. Certainly the legendary fog isn’t a happiness problem. At the moment we have gentrification problems, but so do most cities.

    I’m inclined to accept an old finding that below a certain rather low level of income happiness is difficult, but beyond that money has little to do with happiness. Anyway, we’re a rich city. Personally, I think family, friends, and interesting things to do–like music, the arts, sports, etc.–are more important. SF is loaded with those kinds of things, many of them free.


    • philebersole Says:

      Your experience of life in San Francisco seems much like mine here in Rochester NY. There is a big gap between rich and poor in both places, which leads to unhappiness—more unhappiness than if everybody is in the same boat.

      But I’m neither rich nor poor (at least by American standards) myself, so this doesn’t touch me. I lead a pleasant and interesting life without spending much money (at least by American standards).


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