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Compare two stereotypes: the romantic image of rustic, rural towns; and the dynamic nature of vital urban centers. Cities are enjoying a rising tide of urbanization with increased wages, opportunities, and cultural events. Surprisingly to some, that isn’t making people happier. Rural towns are struggling because jobs are fewer, wages are lower, and some feel that they can’t afford to move – but evidently, they are happier. Two studies, one in Canada and one in the US, documented two tendencies. The more urbanized the area, the healthier the economy. The less urbanized the area, the better people felt. More rural towns have shorter (or at least easier) commutes, more affordable housing, people more likely to stay than move, and more likely to feel like they were part of a community. Smaller towns have stronger social networks, possibly because “everyone knows your name”. Two other strong effects were IQ and diversity. People with higher IQs tended to prefer urban environments, partly because they seem to receive less emotional benefit from their social network. While diversity is seen as a value, it also correlates with urbanization – though not necessarily a causation. Necessity drives decisions. Some may feel they have to stay where they are, because they can’t afford to move. Some may feel they have to follow the work, because otherwise they can’t pay their bills. Whatever the causes and influences, in general, people are happier the farther they are from cities and the closer they are to nature.

4 thoughts on “Small Town Happiness

  1. Huh…The data is interesting and begs some questions. For example, why would living in a place were 22% less people are foreign born be a good thing, or make you happier? Also, why would living in a place were 11% are more likely to be religious more likely to make you be happier? I don’t argue with the data but the question of WHY would this make people happier is an interesting one. Personally, I’m always happier when I’m closer to nature. I’m also always happier when I’m around people who are forgiving, tolerant, and inclusive. And any commute make me crazy so longer is never better, though longer and easy is better than short and complicated. I would think that living in a small town would be happier for those who are accepted and included in that small town. Otherwise, not so much.

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  2. Pingback: Island Happiness – About Whidbey

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