Social Indicators Research

, Volume 123, Issue 1, pp 103–126 | Cite as

Europe’s Capital Cities and the Happiness Penalty: An Investigation Using the European Social Survey

  • Alan T. Piper


This study investigates in three steps whether there is an association between happiness and living in one of Europe’s capital cities. Making use of the European Social Survey, the first step is a raw unadjusted correlation assessment which, overall, finds a negative and statistically significant effect on happiness of living in one of Europe’s capitals. The second step is the addition of socio-economic controls which (overall) increases the happiness penalty associated with living in a European capital city. The third step adds environmental factors and perceptions (safety of local area, worries about crime, for example) to control for further potential confounding factors. Tentative evidence is also presented that this is not just a big city effect. Overall, there is a happiness penalty associated with living in Europe’s capitals though this result is dominated by a few particularly unhappy capitals.


Happiness Life-satisfaction Geography European Social Survey 

JEL Classification

I31 R19 R23 



I am very grateful to Nick Adnett, Geoff Pugh, Nils Saniter, Stefan Zins (member of the Sampling Expert Panel of the ESS), and two anonymous referees for helpful suggestions and comments. Also useful was discussion with participants of the informal research seminar series at Universität Flensburg. The Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD) is the data archive and distributor of the ESS data. Neither the original collectors of the data nor the Archive bear any responsibility for the analyses or interpretations presented here.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Internationales Institut für Management und ökonomische BildungUniversität FlensburgFlensburgGermany

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