Angelenos Are Less Satisfied Than People Elsewhere. Why and What Would Change That?

Several recent surveys and studies offer a glimpse at what’s bumming us out

Statistically, Angelenos are less satisfied than our neighbors from San Francisco to Santa Ana. See below for a glimpse at what’s bumming us out and what it apparently takes to turn that frown upside down.

The Geography of Happiness

L.A. ranks last among
 select U.S. cities
: Washington D.C. (#18), Dallas (#19), Houston (#21), Boston (#23), Chicago (#25), Atlanta (#26), Miami (#27), Philadelphia (#28), New York (#30), Los Angeles (#31)

In California, even Rancho Cucamonga is happier…

(NOTE: Criteria were emotional and physical well-being, income and employment, community, and environment)

Fremont (#1), San Jose (#3), Irvine (#4), Huntington Beach (#7), Santa Rosa (#9), San Francisco (#14), Santa Clarita (#16), Oceanside (#17), Glendale (#18), Anaheim (#19), San Diego (#24), Chula Vista (#25), Garden Grove (#26), Oxnard (#37), Rancho Cucamonga (#52), Santa Ana (#53), Long Beach (#62), Fontana (#78) Los Angeles (#80)

Where is the happiest place on Earth?

L.A. is No. 31 on a list of 186 global cities based on subjective well-being.

Scandinavia dominates the Top 10

#1 Helsinki (Finland), #2 Aarhus (Denmark)
, #5 Copenhagen (Denmark), #6 Bergen (Norway), 
#7 Oslo (Norway), 
#9 Stockholm (Sweden)

The Economics of Happiness

Giorgio Trovato/Unsplash

L.A. is bummed. How come?

According to a USC study, happiness in L.A. is lower than the national average. Why are Angelenos more miserable?

1. It’s harder to own a home

☹ L.A.’s housing 
expenses are
 127 percent higher than the national average.

☹ About two-thirds of Angelenos rent their homes, a proportion that’s higher than the national average.

2. The cost of living is too damn high

☹ The average worker in L.A. makes $60,000 per year. That may be 12 percent higher than the national average, but doesn’t make up for the 42.6 percent higher cost of living.

☹ Rents are more racially stratified in L.A. compared to rest of U.S.

What it costs to be happy in…

Researchers at Purdue University pinpointed the optimal salary required to achieve maximum happiness in 50 U.S. cities. In L.A., all you need is a dream and $204k.

Fresno: $113,000
Sacramento: $133,875
San Diego: $186,000
Long Beach: $188,055
Los Angeles: $204,855
Oakland: $211,260
San Jose: $273,000
San Fransisco: $319,935

Las Vegas: $126,105
Miami: $143,955
Denver: $151,410
Honolulu: $211,155
Seattle: $214,200

Three lowest nationwide
Cleveland: $80,955
Memphis: $88,515
El Paso: $91,560

Three highest nationwide
New York: $219,765
San Jose: $273,000
San Francisco: $319,935

The Demographics of Happiness


Timon Studler/Unsplash

Good news if you’re married, religious, and own a pet…

In the 1970s, rural residents were 10 percent happier than urban dwellers but the groups are about equal now, thanks to surging millennials who prefer city life.

Republicans have been happier than Democrats since the 1970s regardless of who’s in office. One factor is Republicans’ greater religiosity, which studies have linked to happiness.

☹ Growing income inequality starting in the 1990s has caused happiness to rise among America’s upper class and fall
for lower and middle classes.

☹ Thanks to economic inequality and discrimination, Black Americans tend to be less happy than white Americans. But over the past decade the gap has been narrowing.

Pets and kids

☹ A British study found pets bring laughter to six in ten owners, and seven in ten people feel more relaxed in their company.

☹ A study of 22 Western countries found that parents in countries with subsidized childcare are happier 
than people without children, but not in the U.S., where the cost of childcare is higher.

SOURCES: Wallet Hub, World Happiness Report, USC The Livability Report, Purdue University, Psychology Today, Time, Washington Post, Jama Network

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