C'mon Get Happy: Study Tracks Generational Joy By Region

June 29, 2018
Person holding helium balloons in front of colorful brick wall
Photo: Unsplash/Lidya Nada

Millennials may be settling down in the suburbs in greater number, but a new study finds that they tend to be happiest when living in big cities. 

From about 1970 to 2010, people were happier living in smaller, less urban communities. In fact, Millennials are the only generation happier in cities with a population of more than 250,000. As the paper and CityLab co-founder Richard Florida points out, it might be the case that Millennials are happier in cities because they're younger, and younger people tend to enjoy cities more than older individuals. The study ran additional data regressions to test this and the findings on affinity for city life among young people were similar. 

Authors of a recent paper published in the journal Regional Studies, Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, of Rutgers University, and Rubia Valente, of Baruch College, take a close look at the happiness of recent generations and at the kinds of places where they live or lived. They use detailed data from the General Social Survey (GSS) of five separate generations: the Lost Generation (born between 1883 and 1924); the Silent Generation (1925–1942); Baby Boomers (1943–1960); Generation X (1961–1981); and Millennials (1992–2004). The study charts the happiness of these generations since the 1970s across an “urban-rural happiness gradient,” which distinguishes between cities of more than 250,000 people and places with fewer than 250,000.

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