Study: Portland is ‘more happy,’ Bangor is ‘less happy’ and Lewiston is… ‘meh.’

With the preponderance of amateur music videos going around set to the Pharrell Williams song “Happy,” it should come as no surprise that there’s some research floating around about where all the happy people truly are in America.

Interestingly, according to the latest research by a trio of economists, one of Maine’s latest cities to make one of those “Happy” videos actually isn’t all that happy, relatively speaking. More on that in a moment.

happy snipThe Washington Post diagrammed out 318 American cities across a five-point scale of happiness — from “least happy” to “most happy” — based on research economists Edward Glaeser, Oren Ziv and Joshua Gottlieb did into responses gathered by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey.

Post writers Emily Badger and Christopher Ingraham described the aforementioned survey as one “that has fueled most of what we know about the economics of happiness.”

The Post included three Maine municipalities in its ranking of 318 cities, and they were spread out somewhat evenly on the happiness spectrum.

  • Portland, Maine’s largest city, falls into the “more happy” category.
  • Lewiston, Maine’s second largest city, falls into the Post’s “meh” category — as in, neither happy nor unhappy.
  • Bangor, Maine’s third largest city, falls into the “less happy” category. And is the only one of the three — that I’m aware of, anyway — that has made one of those “Happy” Pharrell videos.

Wrote Badger and Ingraham of the source for the economists’ research:

The survey asks one particularly relevant question of about 300,000 Americans every year: “In general, how satisfied are you with your life?” The possible answers: very satisfied, satisfied, dissatisfied, and very dissatisfied. That language is often treated as a proxy for happiness by researchers. And Glaeser and colleagues have used it to calculate aggregate levels of happiness for 318 metropolitan areas across the country, adjusted for income and demographics.

If you’re curious, the following list shows the top 10 and bottom 10 happiest cities based on that aggregation, as well as where the three Maine cities fall in between. Notice that the good folks of Louisiana are really, really happy.

  • 1. Lafayette, Louisiana
  • 2. Houma, Louisiana
  • 3. Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana
  • 4. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • 5. Alexandria, Louisiana
  • 6. Rochester, Minnesota
  • 7. Corpus Christi, Texas
  • 8. Lake Charles, Louisiana
  • 9. Nashville, Tennessee
  • 10. Gainesville, Florida
  • 120. Portland, Maine
  • 129. Lewiston, Maine
  • 194. Bangor, Maine
  • 309. Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
  • 310. Gary, Indiana
  • 311. Detroit, Michigan
  • 312. Jersey City, New Jersey
  • 313. Toledo, Ohio
  • 314. Evansville-Henderson, Indiana-Kentucky
  • 315. Erie, Pennsylvania
  • 316. South Bend, Indiana
  • 317. St. Joseph, Missouri
  • 318. New York City, New York
Students of the Stillson School of Irish Dance wear happy smiles as they perform in Portland's annual St. Patrick's Day parade in this BDN file photo. (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett)

Students of the Stillson School of Irish Dance wear happy smiles as they perform in Portland’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in this BDN file photo. (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett)

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