AbstractMost scholars in urban studies and public policy/administration support city living, that is, they suggest that people are happy in cities or at least they focus on how to make people happy in cities. Planners also largely focus on making cities happy places. Economists emphasize agglomeration economies. Urbanism is popular and fashionable. The goal of this study is to challenge this common wisdom and stimulate discussion. I use the General Social Survey to calculate subjective wellbeing or happiness by size of a place to find out when a place is too big. Malaise or unhappiness increases with size of a place (with a bump around 10k people) and reaches a significant level when population exceeds several hundred thousand. Results are robust to the operationalization of an urban area, and to the elaboration of the model with multiple controls known to predict happiness. This study concerns only the US, and results should not be generalized to other countries or historical contexts. Directions for future research are discussed.
SubjectsCity planning, Urbanization, Cities and towns, Suburbs, Population density, Happiness, Quality of life, Well-being, Social surveys
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