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NYC is one of the most expensive cities to be happy in the U.S.

Can we get a “duh?”

Written by
Christina Izzo

Those who say “money can’t buy happiness” has clearly never lived in a rent-controlled apartment with a clear view of the park. (After all, that recently approved 6% increase for rent-stabilized apartments isn't making anybody happy.) We already know well and good that New York City is a pricey city to live in—Manhattan is, of course, the most expensive place to live in the U.S.but is it a pricey city to be happy in?

The researchers over at S Money, Melbourne-based money exchange service, converted data from a 2018 "happiness premium" study from Purdue University, which identified a global average "satiation point," or income level, at which a person "becomes happy" based on Gallup World Poll figures from over 1.7 million people in 164 countries. The S Money team exchanged the Purdue study's figures back into local currencies, "allowing for purchasing power and the local cost of living" to conjure up "a more practical, day-to-day look at how money might affect happiness."

Surprisingly, despite its money-guzzling reputation, New York City didn't come out at number one in S Money's findings. Instead, Gotham ended up in third, with $145,028 annually being the high price for happiness throughout the city. Beating the Big Apple was Santa Barbara, California, where a happy existence costs a cool $162,721 per year, and Honolulu, Hawaii at $148,943 annually. Other costly coastal cities including San Francisco, California ($144,448) and Seattle, Washington ($134,721) round out the top five. "Meanwhile, Knoxville, Tennessee residents need an income of $88,032 to be content," the study reads. 

In terms of countries, Iran had the highest price of happiness: an annual income of $239,7000, making other top-five high-priced nations like Yemen ($172,140), Australia ($121,191), Zimbabwe ($118,342) and Norway ($117,724) look like outright bargains in comparison. The United States did crack the top ten, coming in tenth place with an annual happiness-boosting price of $105,000.

At the other end of the spectrum, Sierra Leone was the country with the lowest income point needed for happiness at $8,658 per year. Fellow African countries including Madagascar and Sudan joins Sierra Leone in the top five lowest, clocking in under $12,000 annually, as did South American spots including Guyana and Suriname.

Check out the city-specific data from S Money below:

The Price of Happiness in U.S. Cities data from S Money

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