More on happiness in, and with cities, a topic I touched on in “Land of mope and worry.” Wages and housing alone don’t predict where people want to live very well. Cities like San Francisco, which have hideously high housing costs and awful traffic, nonetheless are always ranked toward the top on most lists of places people want to live in, and also rank high with the people who already live in such places.

It’s pretty much accepted that people will accept lower wages or pay higher costs of-living to live in a city with desirable amenities (climate, safety, clean air) that are measured by various quality of life indices. David Albouy, now an associate professor of economics at the University of Illinois in Chambana, recently wrote a paper describing his attempts to better measure quality of life factors. He found that mild seasons and sunshine, hills to liven the scenery and nearness to large bodies of water (“California, here I come!”) account for most of the quality-of-life differences between metropolitan areas, and that his adjusted quality-of-life measures better explain the otherwise puzzling “livability” rankings.

The author ranked states by livability according to his revised measures. Western and New England states had the highest qualify of life; Illinois stands 26th among the states. As for metro areas, Decatur ranked third – from the bottom, ahead of only Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas and Kokomo, Indiana. Unhappy news in every way.

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