The study, lead by a team of Harvard researchers, initially set out to find out why people still choose to live in declining cities. The researchers used national survey data, from sources such as the Centers for Disease Control, to track how citizens rate their lifestyle satisfaction on a concrete scale. Then, they crunched the numbers to find which cities were the happiest — and the most miserable. Some good news: Year after year, the vast majority of people surveyed say they are either "very satisfied" or "satisfied" no matter where they lived, whether it's a booming suburb or a down-on-its-luck city. Even still, the study found that happiness levels often vary within geographic areas.
Charlottesville, Virginia, is the happiest city in America, according to the study. The University of Virginia college town narrowly beat Rochester, Minnesota, Lafayette, Louisiana, and Naples, Florida. At the bottom of the list was Scranton, Pennsylvania, and judging by Jim and Pam's reactions on The Office, we're not surprised. Other unhappy cities include Erie, Pennsylvania, and Detroit, Michigan.
But back to the original question researchers wanted to answer: Why do people still live in unhappy places, like declining cities? The study, which was published by the National Bureau for Economic Research, found it's all about money. "The residents of unhappier metropolitan areas today do receive higher real wages — presumably as compensation for their misery," the study's authors wrote. Plus, if everybody moved to Charlottesville today, the congestion and sky-high home prices would make it pretty miserable, very quickly.