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SF, San Jose, and Oakland Rank Among Unhappiest Major Cities

By Alyssa Pereira


According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and quantified by very smart people at Harvard and the University of British Columbia, we’re a very miserable people here in the Bay Area.

Here’s how the study worked: every year, the CDC asks participants, “In general, how satisfied are you with your life?” and gives them only a few possible answers between “very satisfied” and “very dissatisfied”. It’s a bit unfair to be asked to sum up your happiness with an arbitrary category, but we guess that’s statistics for you.

Anyway, across the study in general, it appeared that Americans are overall fairly happy, but that Western states fared lower down the scale.

Next, it adjusted scores for demographics like age, race and education as well as financial factors like income to put cities on an even playing field using a very complex formula (seriously, we’re not sure if we’ve ever seen so many numerals in one equation). Then it re-ranked cities accordingly.

But at least one writer at Slate isn’t totally buying it. “Wealthy people tend to be happier people, so by controlling for earnings, you’re cutting an important part of well-being out of the picture,” he says.

Of the 56 major American cities studied, San Francisco came in at the highest of the three at 46, San Jose at 48, and Oakland taking the proverbial cake at 51. For a scope on scale here, Los Angeles came in at 43. Don’t feel bad though—New York, the city that never sleeps, came in dead last, both before an after adjustment.

Read the full ranking here.

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