What makes a city a more livable, happy place? In his new book, "Happy City," author Charles Montgomery travels the world to find the answers and came up with a recipe for the urban ingredients that lead to life satisfaction.
Wealth is not a good indicator of happiness, Montgomery found. Social interaction and transit were much more important:
Just before the crash of 2008, a team of Italian economists, led by Stefano Bartolini, tried to account for that seemingly inexplicable gap between rising income and flatlining happiness in the US. The Italians tried removing various components of economic and social data from their models, and found that the only factor powerful enough to hold down people's self-reported happiness in the face of all that wealth was the country's declining social capital: the social networks and interactions that keep us connected with others. It was even more corrosive than the income gap between rich and poor.
And that long commute for a job you enjoy? It might not be worth it:
Their finding was seemingly straightforward: the longer the drive, the less happy people were. Before you dismiss this as numbingly obvious, keep in mind that they were testing not for drive satisfaction, but for life satisfaction. People were choosing commutes that made their entire lives worse. Stutzer and Frey found that a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40% more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office. On the other hand, for a single person, exchanging a long commute for a short walk to work has the same effect on happiness as finding a new love.
Montgomery joins The Daily Circuit to discuss his new book and the highlights from the happiest cities he visited.
"Serious people have thought a lot about these issues," Montgomery told The Atlantic. "What I hoped to do with the book was to draw their thinking, some of their activism, and some of their research together into a coherent narrative."