The Happiest City In The U.S. Will Certainly Surprise You

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Not all American cities are created equal — at least, not when it comes to happiness. You probably have an innate sense that Americans in some parts of the country are happier than others, but a new study from Harvard provides some hard data as to what exactly those places are. Turns out the results are sort of surprising: the five happiest cities in the U.S. are all in Louisiana. What?

To gather material for the paper, Harvard and the Vancouver School took data from a CDC survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. They adjusted it for age, sex, race, income, and other factors — which is important, since women tend to be happier than men, and married people are happier than the unattached. Their findings: the happiest cities are Lafayette, Houma, Shreveport-Bossier, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria, all of which are located in the Mississippi River delta. Maybe it's something in the water?

The paper also detailed the most unhappy cities, and the one that takes the melancholy crown is — perhaps unsurprisingly — New York City. After that, the most unhappy places are St. Joseph, Missouri; South Bend, Indiana; Erie, Pennsylvania; and the Evansville, Indiana-Henderson, Kentucky area. Plenty of other large metropolitan areas are on the lower end of the list, too, like Detroit, San Francisco, and Las Vegas.

Part of the reason the paper was written was to find out why people consistently flock to unhappy areas. The authors write that much of this can be attributed to higher salaries:

"Differences in happiness and subjective well-being across space weakly support the view that the desires for happiness and life satisfaction do not uniquely drive human ambitions. 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. An alternative view is that humans are quite understandably willing to sacrifice both happiness and life satisfaction if the price is right. ... Indeed, the residents of unhappier metropolitan areas today do receive higher real wages — presumably as compensation for their misery."

However, author Edward Glaeser commented that this might not be a comment on the desirability of living in such cities. This seems obvious: People flock to NYC even though the cost of living is through the roof, it's crowded, and far from everyone succeeds in her chosen field. But the draw of living in some of these metropolitan areas is undeniable. However, if those cities aren't for you, consider a move to Louisiana.

Although this may mean a run-in with a vampire or two, if True Blood is to be believed. And if you run into Eric ... give me a call, won't you?

Images: Unhappy Cities/Edward L. Glaeser, Joshua D. Gottlieb, Oren Ziv; justinsentertainmentcorner/Tumblr; tvhousehusband/Tumblr