It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that on a national scale, Virginia ranks pretty high when it comes to overall happiness. In fact, WalletHub, an online financial resource, ranked Virginia as the 19th happiest state in the nation in 2015.
And why shouldn’t we be happy in Virginia? We have a strong economy, beautiful seasons, breathtaking beaches, exquisite mountains, excellent schools and some of the oldest and most significant historical sites in the nation.
But, when it comes to gauging individual happiness, the measures can be fairly arbitrary. What makes a person, much less an entire city, happy?
To answer that question, we started looking for the happiest places in Virginia to see what, exactly, they had to offer. Here’s what we found…
In 2014, the Harvard Gazette released a study on the happiest and unhappiest metropolitan areas and cities in the nation.
The study relied heavily on a report created by the US National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) with data obtained from the General Social Survey (GSS), the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – all of whom conduct surveys that ask respondents to report on their overall satisfaction with life.
Much to our delight, the Richmond-Petersburg metropolitan area came in as the number one happiest metropolitan area in the nation.
According to the findings, Richmond-Petersburg metro area residents reported the highest levels of contentment of any metropolitan area over one million people. For further proof of Richmonders’ apparent happiness, the capital city also made number 15 on Forbes’ list of Happiest Cities for Young Professionals.
But, wait. It just gets better…
Norfolk-Virginia Beach took silver, coming in as the second happiest metropolitan area, not just in Virginia, but in the nation,
Like Richmond, residents of the Norfolk-Virginia Beach area are, overall, quite content with their location, amenities and quality of life. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that in 2014, the Top 40 hit “Happy,” by Virginia Beach native, Pharrell Williams, become only the fourth single in 20 years to be declared triple platinum.
And the happiest city in the nation? By which we mean the happiest city out of ALL cities in the ENTIRE United States?
Charlottesville, Virginia, took top honors, quickly earning it the nickname “Joytown, U.S.A.” on media outlets around the world.
With a population topping 44,000, Charlottesville offers history, architecture, culture and education in abundance. Already named a top college town, one of the best places to live and one of the most beautiful cities in the nation, it’s no surprise that Charlottesville-ians report high levels of satisfaction with their lives.
But what about the rest of the state? To learn a little bit more about how Virginia cities rank on a state level, we turned to Home Snacks, an online resource for city data.
Home Snacks relies on information gathered from local communities to gauge factors like safety, desirability, culture and, of course, happiness.
Using FBI crime data, government census data, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sperling’s Best Places and Twitter (following geo-locations on #happy), Home Snacks looked at the following factors:
Percentage of residents with a college degree
Average commute times
Cost of living
% of married couples
% of home owners
The following 10 cities came in at the top once the numbers were crunched.
Like we said in the beginning, happiness is an arbitrary measure. And sure, while the metro areas, cities and towns listed above met certain criteria, they, by no means, promise happiness for everyone. And, of course, we are more than certain that Virginia is filled with cities, town and even villages that are well-deserving of a place on this list.
With that being said, we would like to hear from you on the topic. Of the two studies, one at a national level based on self-reported happiness and the other, a statewide report based on statistical data, which do you feel provides the most accurate measure of happiness? Do you live in an area that you feel should be added to the list? If so, we value your opinion. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!