Skyscrapers and the Happiness of Cities

Jason Barr, Jennifer Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper explores the drivers of high-rise and skyscraper construction and their impact on average happiness levels across 186 US metropolitan areas. Utilizing ordinary least squares and three-stage least squares, we find strong support that high-rise and skyscraper completion counts are a response to city economic fundamentals, but mixed results for their impact on happiness. On average, high-rises have a small negative effect, while skyscrapers exhibit a positive relationship. Further regressions suggest that skyscrapers improve sense of community and perceived health but that high-rises do not seem to positively affect any happiness subcategories. Tests on the effect of these buildings on general, mental, and physical health provide evidence of no harmful effects. The results suggest that the skyscraper benefits outweigh the possible negative externalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)344-377
Number of pages34
JournalEastern Economic Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics


  • Happiness
  • Skyscrapers
  • Urban economics
  • Well-being

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