It might not come as a surprise that New York City takes the top spot as the most “unhappy” city in the United States, but a new ranking of the happiest and unhappiest cities isn’t all this study is about. Its objective was to find more about why people still to choose to live in these towns.

“Our research indicates that people care about more than happiness alone, so other factors may encourage them to stay in a city despite their unhappiness,” said study co-author Joshua Gottlieb of the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics. “This means that researchers and policy-makers should not consider an increase in reported happiness as an overriding objective.”

A map of the U.S. which shows each metropolitan and rural area’s adjusted life satisfaction. (Image and caption source: University of British Columbia)

A map of the U.S. which shows each metropolitan and rural area’s adjusted life satisfaction. (Image and caption source: University of British Columbia)

“Unhappy Cities,” a working paper written with Harvard University co-authors, was released by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research last week, basing its findings on a large survey that asked participants about their satisfaction.

Here’s a look at the most unhappy cities with a population of more than 1 million as of 2010:

1. New York, NY
2. Pittsburgh, PA
3. Louisville, KY
4. Milwaukee, WI
5. Detroit, MI
6. Indianapolis, IN
7. St. Louis, MO
8. Las Vegas, NV
9. Buffalo, NY
10. Philadelphia, PA

Contrast that with the most happy cities with a population of more than 1 million:

1. Richmond-Petersburg, VA
2. Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News, VA
3. Washington, DC
4. Raleigh-Durham, NC
5. Atlanta, GA
6. Houston, TX
7. Jacksonville, FL
8. Nashville, TN
9. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL
10. Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ

In unhappy cities, the level of unhappiness did not seem to change among long-time residents versus newcomers, and historical data indicated that cities experiencing decline also ranked as “unhappy” in better economic times as well.

Overall, the study authors suggest that these findings reveal a willingness among residents to “endure less happiness” in exchange for, say, higher incomes or lower housing costs.

“In this view, subjective well-being is better viewed as one of many arguments of the utility function, rather than the utility function itself, and individuals make trade-offs among competing objectives, including but not limited to happiness,” he study abstract stated.

(H/T: Daily Mail)