Survey Finds Happiest Cities in the U.S.

The four happiest cities are south of the Mason-Dixon line, according to a study by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research.

Louisiana, eastern Virginia and the nation’s capital are among areas with the happiest cities in America. The northeast did not fare well, with New York and Jersey City, New Jersey, making the list of unhappiest metropolitan areas.

The study, which asked residents across the U.S. about their satisfaction with life, found that many people in “unhappy” cities likely sacrifice their happiness in return for lower housing costs and higher incomes.

“Our research indicates that people care about more than happiness alone, so other factors may encourage them to stay in a city despite their unhappiness,” says Joshua Gottlieb of the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics, and a co-author of the study.

The happiest metropolitan areas with populations of more than 1 million are:


  1. Richmond-Petersburg, Virginia
  2. Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News, Virginia
  3. Washington, District of Columbia
  4. Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
  5. Atlanta
  6. Houston
  7. Jacksonville, Florida
  8. Nashville, Tennessee
  9. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, Florida
  10. Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, New Jersey


The happiest metropolitan areas with populations of less than 1 million are:


  1. Charlottesville, Virginia
  2. Rochester, Minnesota
  3. Lafayette, Louisiana
  4. Naples, Florida
  5. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  6. Flagstaff, Arizona
  7. Shreveport, Louisiana
  8. Houma, Louisiana
  9. Corpus Christi, Texas
  10. Provo, Utah


Unhappiest metropolitan areas included New York; Pittsburgh; Louisville, Kentucky; Milwaukee; Scranton, Pennsylvania; St. Joseph, Missouri; Erie, Pennsylvania; South Bend, Indiana; Jersey City, New Jersey; and Johnstown, Pennsylvania.