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What Makes a City Unhappy?

What Makes a City Unhappy Pacific Standard The Science of Society


“The most powerful correlate of happiness in cities is social trust,” Montgomery says. And, as he notes in the book, “people who live in monofunctional, car-dependent neighbourhoods outside urban centres are much less trusting of other people than people who live in walkable neighbourhoods where housing is mixed with shops, services and places to work.”


“Detroit seems to have fulfilled the aspiration that Henry Ford set out when he said that we save ourselves by abandoning the city,” Montgomery says. “Only now we know that abandoning the city is akin to abandoning what matters most to life itself. Because above all the city is a social machine, and it’s our robust and complex relationships that make us happy.”

Ford notwithstanding, Detroit and other now-declining cities were built for production, not pleasure, the authors of the “Unhappy Cities” paper argue. Was Detroit doomed to be unhappy? Montgomery was appalled at the thought.

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It's pretty easy: increasing house prices = a happy city.  Decreasing house prices = unhappy.  It differs a little bit with multifamily dwellings, but "the big data don't lie".  

But increasing house prices mean fewer people can afford to live there.

So happier cities but fewer happy people. 

Not necessarily, increasing house prices just means more people want to live there, demand is high and supply is limited. People can't afford to buy a house, but they will still rent, and gentrification happens in not so good neighbourhoods (like Williamsburg in NYC). Though rent is too damn high!

That's a good point.

Still, I gotta believe that cities with rents that are too high are less happy than cities with affordable rents. 

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