The pursuit of happiness in Central New York

A new study published in the Atlantic Monthly attempts to quantify the amount of happiness people in various communities feel, and Syracuse, it seems, is a little below average on the joy meter.

We're happier than Uticans, who are near the bottom of the smile scale, but not as happy as those who hail from Rochester or Albany. No upstate cities are particularly cheery.

Of course, it's March, and although the snow has mostly left, the biting winds and horizontal rains of our early spring are enough to make even the heartiest of Central New Yorkers wince a little bit. And with our collective pride wrapped so closely to the Syracuse Orange's tournament hopes, this season's premature exit did little to brighten spirits in these parts.

So ... I've noticed a collective grumpiness in the last few weeks.

But what's interesting about the study are the similarities between grumpy places and happy places.

In a lot of cases, the happy towns and Syracuse have quite a bit in common. Several are college towns (Lincoln, Neb., Burlington, Vt., Boulder, Colo.). And before you tell me that weather is the dominant factor, a look at the happy map would show that there are a lot of cold-weather cities that tip the smile scales, and a bunch of warm-weather locales where frowns appear to be the norm.

Madison, Wis. is a happy place, according to this study. I was briefly there a few years ago and it reminded me of Syracuse. And by a demographic and climate standpoint, there are a lot of similarities.

Madison is bigger than Syracuse (208,000 people as opposed to 145,000), but like Syracuse, the focal point of the town is the university. It has a cleaner, nicer lake than Onondaga Lake, but the weather is similar (Madison is a little colder, Syracuse is quite a bit snowier). Like Syracuse and many college towns, there are a number of arts and cultural attractions that are unavailable in other small cities. And similar to the place we call home, Madison seems to spill out of itself into a suburban sprawl that I found very familiar.

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