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Reasons for Community Attachment & Happiness: Thoughts from Richard Florida & Forbes.

Updated on November 16, 2015

In “Soul of the City,” Dr. Richard Florida examined the reasons people have for attachment to their communities, and the top three are openness, social offerings, and aesthetics. This article was a result of a giant survey called “Soul of the Community” through a partnership between the Gallup Organization and Knight Foundation.

The other seven domains are infrastructure, the economy, safety, leadership, education, civic involvement, and social capital. While the economic crisis is the number one concern of Americans, it does not have as major an effect on community attachment as openness, social offerings, and aesthetics.

Now let’s look at the main reasons for happiness: free of pain, rested, respected, and intellectually engaged. These four categories came from “The World’s Happiest Countries,” by Francesca Levy. Between 2005 and 2009, the Gallup World Poll surveyed thousands of respondents in 155 countries, in order to measure two types of well-being: overall life evaluation and how you felt the previous day, according to those four categories. Then the researchers classified people as either thriving or struggling. Importantly, the researchers point out that how we evaluate our happiness--overall and recently—affects our decision-making.

Let's look at the term "intellectually engaged." What if you can't read? Researchers need to integrate findings from throughout social science and education. The Texas A&M Department of Education and Human Development report that 19% of adult Texans can't read a newspaper. The statistics get far worse near the Rio Grande Valley. Smith County, where Tyler is the county seat, beats the state average with only 13% illiteracy. What if you don't want to be intellectually engaged? In "How to Understand 'Acting White,'" Richard Thompson Ford reports many feel that desegregation inadvertently led to African American underachievement in the schools, particularly among those who stayed in Black communities. Suddenly, doing well in school meant one was "acting White," and the crafty street toughs became the new role models. On the other hand, the previously all-White suburbs experienced an influx of Black professionals while the Black communities lost many of their middle-class role models and plenty of neighborhood businesses too.

The Scandinavian Countries are the happiest: Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden take the top four places. The Netherlands is number five. Making a good salary accounts for a good deal of these countries’ happiness but not all of it. Denmark had a per-capita GDP of $36,000 in 2009, according to the Central Intelligence Agency. That's higher than 196 of the 227 countries for which the CIA collects statistics.” Still that means Denmark is only #31 in average yearly income. Costa Rica is the happiest country in the Americas at number six world wide, because of tight social networks that provide social and psychological prosperity, according to the Gallup World Poll. That Central American country finished ahead of the wealthier United States on the happiness measures.

However, a survey reported by the British news website, The Guardian, rated Costa Rica as #1 by “combining measures of their ecological footprint with the happiness of their citizens.” The New Economics Foundation (NEF) developed the Happy Planet Index (HPI) In "Costa Rica is the world's greenest, happiest country,", The Netherlands was the highest rated Western country by NEF. The Dutch levels of life satisfaction are about the same as the US, and the Dutch live one year longer than Americans. Yet the Dutch “per capita ecological footprint is less than half the size” of Americans. “The Netherlands is therefore over twice as environmentally efficient at achieving good lives as the US,” according to NEF. Meanwhile, "Costa Ricans top the list because they report the highest life satisfaction in the world, they live slightly longer than Americans, yet have an ecological footprint that is less than a quarter the size."

Let’s look at a study of the most relaxed cities in the US since two of the four happiness measures are “rested” and “free of pain.” In "America's Most Relaxed Cities," “high unemployment, heavy traffic and long working hours” are the factors that lead to stress. On the other hand, access to health care and self-ratings of health lead to a relaxed state of mind. Minneapolis-St. Paul and Milwaukee are the top two relaxed American cities. A city with a culture of exercise has less stress and more relaxation. “Four cities that make the list are known for residents who love the outdoors” and have higher than average exercise rates: 4. Portland, OR, 6. Denver, CO, 7.Seattle, WA, and 10. San Jose, CA.

Gallup developed another measure of well-being, and it has now has five domains, instead of six.

  • Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
  • Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life
  • Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  • Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
  • Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

We may need more research in this area after the debt ceiling crisis in the US and the tragic massacre in Paris. I'd like to suggest additional questions: (1) Do you have confidence in your country's government? (2) Do you feel that religious extremists present a danger to your country? This is just the beginning.


To conclude, researchers today have developed excellent categories for analyzing happiness and relaxation, as well as their opposites. These four categories: free of pain, rested, respected, and intellectually engaged came from “The World’s Happiest Countries,” by Francesca Levy. Importantly, these studies have been conducted in countries throughout the world and in cities throughout the US. Forbes magazine has been a major source. One can see how the categories can interlock also. Are you happy? If you're unhappy, you should be able to identify the reasons more easily than before this research was conducted.


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    • bohemiotx profile image

      Joffre Meyer 2 years ago from Tyler, TX

      New edit in 2015. Fixed broken links and edited.

    • bohemiotx profile image

      Joffre Meyer 4 years ago from Tyler, TX

      New title with this edit--better hook with other hub and being cool with the downtown homies.

    • bohemiotx profile image

      Joffre Meyer 6 years ago from Tyler, TX

      An edit with a summary and more hyperlinks in place of mere underlining--new subtitle.

    • bohemiotx profile image

      Joffre Meyer 6 years ago from Tyler, TX

      My latest edit has the well-being index, also from Gallup, and I found it at Richard Florida's Creative Class website.