In the 2020 Wallethub ranking of cities across the U.S., Madison earned the title of the fifth happiest city.
Wallethub is an online resource that provides credit reports and free credit scores. In order to determine happiness levels, Wallethub compared 182 of the largest U.S. cities across three dimensions — emotional and physical well-being, income and employment and community and environment.
The Wallethub rankings compared the 182 largest cities in the U.S using 30 metrics. According to WalletHub, each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing maximum happiness. Some of the measurements used to comprise the rankings include a city’s depression rate, sports participation rate and job satisfaction.
Madison ranked fifth in the U.S. for emotional and physical well-being, 13th for community and environment, and 21st for income and employment.
University of Wisconsin freshman Mason Gauthier finds happiness in Madison through friendships, stimulating surroundings, diversity and the constant energy flow of the city.
“I love State Street and all of the city that surrounds the university,” Gauthier said. “It has a certain charm that makes you feel like you’re in a big city, but you still have a certain small-town midwestern comfort.”
According to Wallethub, money is often seen as a gateway to happiness in American life. Though, according to a report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, people who make $75,000 a year won’t get any higher satisfaction from more money.
According to the World Happiness Report, the U.S. ranks as the 19th happiest country, despite being one of the richest.
According to Wallethub, each person attains their happiness through unique means, including from family, friends, activities, entertainment, work or living environment.
Psychologist Marica Cassarino wrote in a blog that people innately absorb the elements of their surroundings. The places that comprise the interactions and routines of peoples’ lives create tangible connections with its inhabitants.
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“The same way we become attached to our relatives and friends as we grow up, we can grow a sense of connectedness to the places where we live, spanning from our home to our neighborhood, our town,” Cassarino wrote.
According Cassarino, differences in cities and local neighborhoods across the U.S. can result in variances of citizens’ levels of happiness and well-being throughout the country.
UW alumnae and current Madison resident Kendall Meuwissen said she has a deep love for the city and found extensive opportunities in it.
Meuwissen said she found many different strong communities within the city. She added though she loves the smaller town atmosphere, the large population from the city provides many people to connect with.
“Community members feel very supported and understood by their fellow Madison citizens,” Meuwissen said. “No matter where you are in your life stage you can find your own sub-community or a group of people that fit where you’re at.”
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Despite being a large city with many opportunities, Madison has a small city vibe, Meuwissen said. UW’s integration into the city is unique and brings people together, Meuwissen added.
“People are so happy in Madison for many reasons, but a big one is how beautiful it is everywhere you go. The nature, along with the downtown vibe, is so pretty and pleasant to be surrounded by, it boosts your mood,” Meuwissen said.
Meuwissen said she enjoys the Saturday morning farmer’s market on the square, the terrace and other lake-related activities such as kayaking, sporting events and restaurants.
Meuwissen works in Madison as both a mechanical engineer and a dance teacher at a local studio. Mewuissen explained how though these two professions are on opposite sides of the occupation spectrum, she found both available positions in Madison.
“Generally, I think job satisfaction is high,” Meuwisssen said. “There are so many different industries from research, healthcare and so many more, which allows for everyone to find something, no matter how niche your field, to fit your strengths and desires in a job.”
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UW freshman Lauren Bovy said Madison’s positive atmosphere influences students’ experiences at the university. UW’s close ties with the city creates a supportive and inclusive environment, Bovy said.
Bovy said seeing classmates and fellow residents outside of the classroom setting creates many more opportunities for deep community ties and friendships.
“All of the unique elements of Madison as a place give people a sense of belonging and connection to the city that will last throughout their lives,” Bovy said.