GOOD

What’s The Price of Happiness? It Depends On Where You Live

Putting a price tag on joy isn't as simple as you've heard

Seven years ago, scientists found an answer to the question plaguing mankind for generations: What’s the true cost of happiness? In their Nobel Prize-winning study, economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman determined the exact salary at which one’s happiness peaked: $75,000 per year.

But that seemed awfully low to me when I was paying $1,350 per month to live in a three-bedroom apartment in New York City. My room had one window that looked out onto a brick wall and a common space about the size of a cubicle. A friend of mine moved to Memphis and paid $500 for a room in a three-story house (presumably with more windows). I complained about the high cost of living in New York—the accidental $50 bar tabs, the $115 per month subway—but I justified the costs with other sources of happiness: endless people to meet, something new to do every night. My friend and I had the same amount of happiness in our lives, but perhaps my happiness just cost more?


In 2015, researchers at the public polling firm Gallup decided to examine that very question: If a salary of $75,000 translates to a different life in different places, does the cost of living affect that threshold? Turns out, it does. While happiness still peaks, the amount of money it peaks at differs according to where you are, partly based on the cost of living in that particular place.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]Peak happiness can cost as low as $42,000 and as high as $120,000.[/quote]

In the two-year long study, the firm, in partnership with Sharecare, talked to more than 350,000 people from around the United States, asking questions like: “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?” and “Did you experience enjoyment during a lot of the day yesterday?” What they found after analyzing people’s daily emotions adds a slightly more nuanced layer to that $75,000 golden ticket to happiness. According to their research, peak happiness can cost as little as $42,000 and as much as $120,000. Some metropolitan regions were predictably more expensive; in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Seattle peak happiness costs $105,000 per year. The metro area of Atlanta achieved peak happiness for the low, low price of $42,000 per year. In Miami, Dallas, Phoenix, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., happiness cost $54,000. Boston and Houston landed at $75,000.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]An Atlantan making $42,000 is the same level of day-to-day happy as the New Yorker making $105,000. It just costs less.[/quote]

Lead researcher Dan Witters is quick to point out that you can't “cap out at higher happiness” in some regions more than others. In other words, an Atlantan making $42,000 is the same level of day-to-day happy as the New Yorker making $105,000. It just costs less.

Interestingly, the confounding region was the Great Lakes—Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Their happiness threshold was the highest of any at $120,000, despite the cost of living being highest in eastern cities (New York, Washington, D.C.) and in California (San Francisco, San Jose). Witters wasn’t shocked by the perplexing numbers: “We've learned a lot about the economy and working class residents of these areas, and what's happened with their well-being over [the] last several years. I think it's a fair hypothesis that this is a reflection of people feeling disenchanted, disgruntled, left behind."

Many folks in these states feel abandoned and unheard in the wake of globalization. Industrial jobs that used to employ millions in the Great Lakes region have been taken overseas where there’s cheaper labor. As opportunities and stable income move out of the region, it stands to reason why people would feel their happiness relies on even larger sums.

Trying to convince disgruntled Midwesterners to move because happiness costs less elsewhere doesn’t sound like an easy task, but Witters thinks this philosophy should factor into where people do decide to settle.

It ought to be a consideration that's on the menu,” he told Time. “With some regions, like West North Central and South Central—right in the middle of America—it takes a lot less money to maximize the chance that you'll have a really good day.”

It’s hard to turn down a bunch of really good days. I, for one, did not move to Memphis, even though I knew it was so much cheaper. I’m not sure I would have believed Witters if he told me the lower cost of living would make me happier there. For me—and probably for many of us—I was choosing where I thought I would be happiest; cost was secondary. But perhaps relying on that hunch was a mistake.

Money
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health