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Whether money leads to happiness is a source of constant debate. But a new report from fintech firm SmartAsset, citing research from the University of Pennsylvania, suggests a link between happiness and income growth.

The Penn researchers found that the correlation holds even when annual income exceeds $80,000, in contrast to earlier findings that happiness tends to stagnate when an individual’s income reaches $75,000.

SmartAsset noted, however, that some cities may offer higher levels of happiness than others. These places have more economic opportunities and a better quality of life.

To determine the places where Americans are happiest, the researchers analyzed the 200 largest US cities, of which 164 had available data. They considered 13 dimensions in these three categories;

Personal finance

  • Percentage of individuals earning $100,000 or more
  • Cost of living as a percentage of income
  • Personal bankruptcy filings per 100,000 population
  • Home down payment to income ratio


  • A percentage report bad mental health days
  • Lifetime
  • Percentage reporting physical inactivity
  • Percentage of adults with health insurance

Quality of life

  • Percentage of adults living below the poverty level
  • Marriage rate
  • Average travel time
  • Concentration of fines, bars and entertainment establishments
  • Violent crime rate

The researchers ranked each location in each metric, calculated an average rating and score for each category, then averaged the three category scores to come up with a final score.

See the gallery of 15 Happiest Places According to SmartAsset.


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