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Top 3 Happiest Cities in the U.S: Why Location Matters

The Top 3 happiest cities in the United States and how attributes of a location matter to overall well-being.

View at Oak Point Nature Preserve in Plano, Texas, a Dallas suburb. Image: NicholasGeraldinePhotos/Shutterstock

For 2023, World Population Review releases a list of the happiest cities in America. Research exposes proof that happiness depends on a collective amount of attributes. This can be mainly described as internal and external attributes—however, outer Impressions impact an individual’s inner well-being and vice versa.

How does location determine happiness?

“The Oxford Handbook of Happiness” by Oxford University’s contributors writes that “level of living” or “livability” is a means of social conditions and environment.

“Physical aspects of livability are moderate temperate and fresh air, while some social aspects are rule of law and freedom.”

The Oxford Handbook of Happiness

“The Oxford Handbook of Happiness” further conveys a list of outer qualities contributing to overall happiness.

Livability of enviorment:

  • Ecological:
  • eg., moderate climate, clean air, spacious housing
  • Social:
  • eg., freedom, equality, and brotherhood
  • Economical:
  • eg., wealthy nation, generous social security, smooth economic development
  • Cultural:
  • eg., flourishing of arts and sciences, mass education
  • Etc…

Other sources, such as a legal study by Mark A. Cohen at the University of Chicago, provide supporting information. General crime rates in locations and burglary victims show significantly lower overall happiness rates than in communities with less crime.

Although the key to happiness is not a short answer, there are simple ways to maintain or progress an individual’s level of satisfaction. Physical, emotional, mental, social, and environmental all play a role. However, positive influences create positive impressions on an individual, collectively amplifying a happy community. With that in mind, let’s address the three happiest cities in America. How do they fulfill these qualities?

Top 3 Happiest Cities in the U.S

  • Plano, TX
  • Irvine, CA
  • Madison, WI

The happiest city in the United States for 2023 is stated to be Plano, Texas. Plano’s yearly weather conditions are a low of 35 degrees in the winter months and a high of 95 degrees in the summer months. The nature exposure of trees and trails is quite dense. Plano offers 84 parks in the city. In addition, the Plano Chamber shares its excellent education opportunities.

“The Plano Independent School Distrist (PISD) has long played a vital role in Plano’s economic success.  It’s reputation for excellence continues to lure professional families and, in turn, companies to Plano.  With enrollment of 52,629 students, PISD boasts one of the highest performances on college entrance exams in the nation.”

Plano Chamber of Commerce
Plano, Texas
Plano, Texas. Image: topshootfilm/Shutterstock

The second happiest city in the United States is Irvine, California. Similarly to Plano, the city of Irvine prioritizes the land. They provide hiking and biking trails and significant access to parks and facilities.

The city of Irvine’s mission statement encourages a community of a team sharing the responsibility of keeping a healthy and safe city. Considering the communication between the city and its people, a happy location is a reassurance and comfort for the occupants.

Irvine also boasts about their keen opportunities for education. They acquire a high ranking of the best education in the nation.

 “IUSD has nationally recognized schools; student performance well-above state and national comparisons; and comprehensive programs in academics, the arts, and athletics.”

City of Irvine

Most importantly, happiness within a location comes with safety. The city of Irvine also shares crime data “Irvine has the lowest per capita violent crime rate of any city in the nation with a population of 250,000 or more”.

Irvine, California
Irvine, California. Image: Matt Gush/Shutterstock

Lastly, out of the top three happiest cities is Madison, Wisconsin. Madison values the freshwater views on 12 beaches surrounding Lakes Monona, Mendota, Wingra, Kegonsa, and Waubesa, offering abundant activities catering to the long winters and hot summers.

The City of Madison exhibits the goals of equity, civic engagement, well-being, shared prosperity, and stewardship in the mission statement—the implantation of their mission surrounds the outer needs of a person or family’s happiness. The city offers an array of schools to choose from, ranging from public to private.

A local young man, Matthew McGrath, describes Madison as possessing greater freedom for the individual, allowing expression.

“There’s a crowd for you anywhere you go in Madison.”

Matthew McGrath
Madison, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin. Image: Szymon Raczkowiak/Shutterstock

Happiness isn’t a destination, but it can help

Even though happiness is a pursuit from within, it is also greatly affected by the outer. However, it is important to note how our outer needs can differ. Priorities can impact a choice of location significantly. For example, a young family may prioritize safety and education. In comparison, a single person may prioritize the liveliness of a city. Regardless, our human nature beckons for comfort, validity, and inclusion to pursue happiness in a healthy location.

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