The perennial dissatisfaction of urban upbringing

Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, Rubia R. Valente

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This study provides new evidence to the urban malaise (unhappiness) hypothesis. A new key finding is added: Urban upbringing is associated with lower happiness levels later in life. This outcome is above and beyond the effect associated with living currently in a city. Strikingly, the negative effect of urbanicity in one's youth is about as strong statistically, and practically (effect size), as the effect of urbanicity given one's current place of residence. In addition, our findings show that there may be a happiness benefit to growing up on a farm. The present study is inspired by Lederbogen et al. (2011) who showed that growing up in a city has a negative lasting effect in a person's life. We also find interactive effects: people who grew up in larger areas but live in smaller areas have lower levels of happiness than those who grew up in smaller areas and continue to live there. There is also an interactive effect with age: older people are happier if they grew up on a farm. These results aim to stimulate discussion by challenging the mainstream pro-urban view that people are happier in cities. This study is based on U.S. data, thus our results may not generalize to other countries or historical contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102751
StatePublished - Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


  • City
  • Happiness
  • Life satisfaction
  • Migration
  • Subjective well-being
  • U.S. General Social Survey (GSS)
  • Urbanism


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