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Unhappy Cities

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  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Joshua D. Gottlieb
  • Oren Ziv

Abstract

There are persistent differences in self-reported subjective well-being across U.S. metropolitan areas, and residents of declining cities appear less happy than other Americans. Newer residents of these cities appear to be as unhappy as longer term residents, and yet some people continue to move to these areas. While the historical data on happiness are limited, the available facts suggest that cities that are now declining were also unhappy in their more prosperous past. 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. In this view, subjective well-being is better viewed as one of many arguments of the utility function, rather than the utility function itself, and individuals make trade-offs among competing objectives, including but not limited to happiness.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward L. Glaeser & Joshua D. Gottlieb & Oren Ziv, 2014. "Unhappy Cities," NBER Working Papers 20291, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20291
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    1. Urban unhappiness
      by nawmsayn in ZeeConomics on 2014-08-06 23:10:43

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    1. Mikko Weckroth & Teemu Kemppainen & Jens F.L. Sørensen, 2015. "Predicting GDP of 289 NUTS Regions in Europe with ?Subjective? Indicators for Human and Social Capital," ERSA conference papers ersa15p22, European Regional Science Association.
    2. Ahlfeldt, Gabriel M. & Pietrostefani, Elisabetta, 2019. "The economic effects of density: A synthesis," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 93-107.
    3. Gabriel M. Ahfeldt & Elisabetta Pietrostefani, 2017. "The Compact City in Empirical Research: A Quantitative Literature Review," SERC Discussion Papers 0215, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
    4. John Gibson, 2016. "Poverty Measurement: We Know Less than Policy Makers Realize," Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 3(3), pages 430-442, September.
    5. Chauvin, Juan Pablo & Glaeser, Edward & Ma, Yueran & Tobio, Kristina, 2017. "What is different about urbanization in rich and poor countries? Cities in Brazil, China, India and the United States," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 17-49.
    6. Akay, Alpaslan & Bargain, Olivier B. & Jara, Xavier, 2017. "‘Fair’ Welfare Comparisons with Heterogeneous Tastes: Subjective versus Revealed Preferences," Working Papers in Economics 707, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    7. Benjamin Austin & Edward Glaeser & Lawrence Summers, 2018. "Jobs for the Heartland: Place-Based Policies in 21st-Century America," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 49(1 (Spring), pages 151-255.
    8. Krekel, Christian & Zerrahn, Alexander, 2017. "Does the presence of wind turbines have negative externalities for people in their surroundings? Evidence from well-being data," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 221-238.
    9. Ahfeldt, Gabriel M. & Pietrostefani, Elisabetta, 2017. "The compact city in empirical research: A quantitative literature review," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 83638, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    10. Ifcher, John & Zarghamee, Homa & Graham, Carol, 2018. "Local neighbors as positives, regional neighbors as negatives: Competing channels in the relationship between others’ income, health, and happiness," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 263-276.
    11. Cardoso, Rodrigo V. & Meijers, Evert J. & van Ham, Maarten & Burger, Martijn J. & de Vos, Duco, 2017. "The City as a Self-Help Book: The Psychology of Urban Promises," IZA Discussion Papers 10693, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Chuluun, Tuugi & Graham, Carol, 2016. "Local happiness and firm behavior: Do firms in happy places invest more?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 41-56.
    13. Maguire, Karen & Winters, John V., 2016. "Energy Boom and Gloom? Local Effects of Oil and Natural Gas Drilling on Subjective Well-Being," IZA Discussion Papers 9811, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    14. John F Helliwell & Hugh Shiplett & Christopher P Barrington-Leigh, 2019. "How happy are your neighbours? Variation in life satisfaction among 1200 Canadian neighbourhoods and communities," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 14(1), pages 1-24, January.
    15. Arthur Grimes & Dennis Wesselbaum, 2018. "Moving towards happiness," Working Papers 18_07, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.
    16. Sasaki, Hiroki, 2016. "Do Japanese Citizens Move to Rural Areas Seeking a Slower Life? Differences between Rural and Urban Areas in Subjective Well-Being," 2016 Fifth AIEAA Congress, June 16-17, 2016, Bologna, Italy 242325, Italian Association of Agricultural and Applied Economics (AIEAA).
    17. Aaron Yelowitz, 2017. "Local housing costs and basic household needs," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 52(3), pages 901-923, May.
    18. Cristina Bernini & Alessandro Tampieri, 2017. "The Happiness Function in Italian Cities," CREA Discussion Paper Series 17-07, Center for Research in Economic Analysis, University of Luxembourg.
    19. Chengedzai Mafini & Daniel Francois Meyer, 2016. "Satisfaction with Life Amongst the Urban Poor: Empirical Results from South Africa," Acta Universitatis Danubius. OEconomica, Danubius University of Galati, issue 12(5), pages 33-50, OCTOBER.

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    JEL classification:

    • D00 - Microeconomics - - General - - - General
    • I00 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General - - - General
    • J00 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - General
    • R00 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General - - - General

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