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Virginia cities, D.C. top list of happiest metro areas

Wednesday - 7/23/2014, 7:20am  ET

Map of happiness (Courtesy U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research)
A map shows the study's findings on the happiest places in the country. (Courtesy U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research)

WASHINGTON -- Virginians may be grinning ear-to-ear after two cities in the commonwealth topped a list of the nation's happiest metropolitan areas.

Richmond, Virginia, is the happiest metro area with a population of more than 1 million, according to a study from the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research.

The Norfolk-Virginia Beach area in Virginia came in at No. 2 followed by Washington, D.C., in third.

To determine the rankings, U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research asked respondents about their satisfaction with life, the Daily Mail reports.

New York City is the unhappiest metro area, according to the study.

Below is the list of the top 10 happiest metro areas:

  1. Richmond, Virginia
  2. Norfolk-Virginia Beach, Virginia
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
  5. Atlanta, Georgia
  6. Houston, Texas
  7. Jacksonville, Florida
  8. Nashville
  9. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, Florida
  10. Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, New Jersey

Researchers found that people may be deciding to trade happiness for other perks, such as less happiness for higher incomes or lower housing costs.

"Our research indicates that people care about more than happiness alone, so other factors may encourage them to stay in a city despite their unhappiness," study co-author, Joshua Gottlieb of the University of British Columbia's Vancouver School of Economics, told the Daily Mail.

Also, the study examined what makes people relocate or stay put when considering their happiness.

"Humans are quite understandably willing to sacrifice both happiness and life satisfaction if the price is right," Gottlieb said to the Daily Mail.

"Indeed, the residents of unhappier metropolitan areas today do receive higher real wages -- presumably as compensation for their misery."

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