Are These Really the Happiest Cities?

WalletHub’s recently released rankings of the happiest cities seems to defy reality.  Then again, the psychologists who concocted the rankings seem to defy common sense.

The list was conjured by a bunch of homogeneous professors — by one measure, liberal professors outnumber conservatives by 12 to 1.  What’s more, the professors behind this “happiest cities” ranking are all psychologists, in one form or another. Perhaps one of the professions most dominated by liberal social activists, studies indicate that the ratio of liberals to conservatives in the field of psychology is 14 to 1.  That’s not very diverse.

Not to unnecessarily cast aspersions, but given these forbidding ratios, it’s still legitimate to question the motives of such an apparently intellectually incestuous group of psychologists — without one White male, in their unhappy, un-DEI group (See “Ask the Experts” section).

Given the “publish or perish” imperative in liberal academia, skepticism about their intellectual integrity may be warranted.  But let’s give them a chance, and see what they came up with for WalletHub.  First, let’s consider a couple of factors that contribute to lasting “happiness,” then take a closer look at their data, particularly as it relates to cities in the tarnished state of California.

Our founders may very well have delineated some of our inalienable rights as life, liberty, and the pursuit of progress.  Progress toward meaningful goals plays an important role in psychological well-being that’s intrinsic to lasting happiness.  And, ultimately, there’s not much more meaningful than helping others.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy described what happiness meant to our founders: “Happiness meant that feeling of self-worth and dignity you acquire by contributing to your community and to its civic life.”

Activities that provide a sense of purpose include helping others through charitable giving and volunteer work.  In those areas, the cities the ivory tower psychologists rated as “happy” actually underperformed.  Let’s take a closer look….

It’s no secret that residents are fleeing California; in fact, based on Census Bureau population data, they recently lost a congressional seat for the first time.  Many are leaving the Bay Area, per a U-Haul migration trends report.  Yet, of the top five happiest cities according to the WalletHub report, three are in the Bay Area and surroundings:  Fremont, San Jose (close), and San Francisco itself.  Please remember:  that is out of 182 ranked cities.  Oakland — yep, crime-ridden and dirty Oakland, of all places — is just outside the top 10 at number thirteen.  Overall, 6 of the top 20 happiest cities are in California, both in the north and south.

One of the report’s indicators of happiness in the Income and Employment dimension is “Share of Households Earning Annual Incomes Above $75,000.”  Well, in the Bay area, and many places in California, that’s not enough to fetch a tiny studio apartment.  That might explain why, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, the most urgent issue to Californians is homelessness (22%), followed by affordable housing (17%).

The WalletHub analysts must be overlooking the homeless people in their rankings, and the hapless local businesses and homeowners dealing with Third World-type surroundings.  Sure, if one can afford a nice house in Pelosi’s neighborhood, for example, then things may seem hunky-dory.  But those who are fleeing must be discontent because it takes a lot of effort to uproot, pack up, and rent a one-way U-Haul.

A couple of indicators that do contribute to lasting happiness — but receive short shrift in the WalletHub report  — are volunteerism and charitable giving.  Per AmeriCorps’s report “Volunteering in America: States,” a measly 25.4% of California residents volunteer, ranking them an abysmal 47th.  So much for helping others.

Giving to others can also contribute to intrinsic happiness, as opposed to fleeting, self-indulgent notions of happiness that prompt spending like drunken Democrats.  Per the same AmeriCorps report, only 47% of California residents donate $25 or more to charity.  If that sounds like a lot, it actually ranks them in the bottom ten; in fact, only FL, GA, LA, MS, NV, and NM have lower rates of charity, by that measure.  Even the proudly individualistic residents of Wyoming outrank them, with 47.2% making comparable donations.

The like-minded psychologists who contributed to the WalletHub report disclaim, “Our analysis draws upon the findings of the following research.”  Notably absent from the subsequent list is Arthur C. Brooks, who is a renowned researcher, author, and happiness guru.  I wonder if that’s because Brooks dared to point out that conservatives give more than liberals, volunteer more, and are generally happier than them.  Noel S. Williams continues…

We gave them a chance, but the psychologists’ progressive predilections seem to favor conclusions that comport with a bent liberal mindset.  For example, stinky and dirty Oakland, with the highest crime index in the country, is ranked the 13th happiest city in America — please!  That would put it above 169 other cities on their contorted list.  If Oakland residents are so happy, why do they violently riot so much?  It’s not all out-of-towners fomenting discord.  Peaceful protests are sometimes justified, but violent and anarchistic mayhem are unbecoming for a content populace.  More likely, Oakland should be ranked 13th — or higher — on a potential most dystopian city list.

At a minimum, these rankings are dubious, but spare some pity for the authors who crafted them to fit a perverted psychology paradigm; after all, they may be more screwed up than your average progressive.  Perhaps it’s the Solomon Paradox — one’s ability to be more discerning about another’s problems than one’s own — but psychologists need therapy big time.

The weight they applied to happiness indicators is light on helping others, but heavy on ego-centric measures.  For concocting such preposterous rankings, which seem to emphasize liberal selfishness and instant gratification, rather than civic engagement, methinks they need a shrink — now!

Image: Free image, Pixabay license, no attribution required.

If you experience technical problems, please write to