In 2011, Newsweek Magazine dubbed South Bend as one of America’s top ten dying cities. Today brought another derogatory distinction to town.
“Gary, Indiana, I can see that being a tough place. South Bend is no Gary, Indiana,” said South Bend resident Larry Catanzarite. “I think statistics are flawed.”
Catanzarite was reacting to word that South Bend ranked as the third unhappiest city in the United States, behind top ranked New York, and number two, St. Joseph, Missouri.
“I really have a tough time believing that Harvard could do a study that would have Louisianans the happiest on the planet,” said Catanzarite.
The top five happiest cities identified by the study are all located in Louisiana (Lafayette, Houma, Shreveport, Baton Rouge and Alexandria).
“Harvard certainly is a reputable university and I’m sure
There’s some merit to it but with such a small statistical survey I think that it could be very significantly depend on which day you ask somebody,” said St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Rea.
Anyway you try to measure happiness is bound to be controversial. In this case, researchers relied on survey results from the Centers for Disease Control and its large national survey known as the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
In the study, the CDC asks, “In general, how satisfied are you with your life?” Respondents have four possible answers: very satisfied, satisfied, dissatisfied, and very dissatisfied.
Jeff Rea complains that the survey size was only 300,000 respondents and that the answers analyzed were actually given in 2009.
“Sample size was really small, timing of the data maybe, the data was probably more realistic in 2008 and 2009, when we’re coming out of some difficult recession kind of things,” said Jeff Rea.
One of the locals looking to express their unhappiness about the ranking did so by posting a special message on the marquee of the State Theatre in downtown South Bend.
“It says ‘we are happy, take that Harvard,’” said Lindsay Vest of Indiana Rug Company. “And it says that because we are. I know a lot of happy people that live in South Bend and I don’t want people to think that we’re an unhappy city.”
Hope Netting of South Bend added that the only thing that makes her unhappy is the city’s distinction as an unhappy place. “You could be happy that we have Notre Dame here, which is, you know, a number one school in the country. You could be happy with some of the service clubs doing lots of good work.”
South Bend was one of three Indiana cities that ranked among the top ten unhappiest in the nation: Evansville was number five while Gary was number eight.
“We cringe because they typically get some attention, now if it does the right thing though, it could be a good thing,” said Jeff Rea. “If it gets people talking about you know, what we can do as a community.”
Rea hopes the study is seen as less of a punch to the gut, and more of a kick in the pants. “These oftentimes serve as good rallying cries for us to sort of get people together and say, what are the things we can do as a community to make it better.”
The working paper appeared in the National Bureau of Economic Research. The authors are Edward L. Glaeser, an assistant professor at Harvard, and Joshua D. Gottlieb with the University of British Columbia.