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Are sustainable cities “happy” cities? Associations between sustainable development and human well-being in urban areas of the United States


In this paper, we assess the associations between self-reported happiness, measured using the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index (2012), and four US city sustainability indices: the Green City Index (2011), Our Green Cities (2012), Popular Science US City Rankings (2008) and the SustainLane US Green City Rankings (2007). Based on the examination of nonparametric, rank-based correlations, we found positive associations between sustainable development and happiness on all scales and statistically significant correlations for two of the four SD indices. Results support previous research, emphasize the value of explicit consideration of happiness when measuring urban sustainability and highlight the need for future research that assesses the influence of specific subsystems of urban development on self-reported happiness.

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Correspondence to Scott Cloutier.

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Cloutier, S., Larson, L. & Jambeck, J. Are sustainable cities “happy” cities? Associations between sustainable development and human well-being in urban areas of the United States. Environ Dev Sustain 16, 633–647 (2014).

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  • Happiness
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainable development
  • Community development