Tyler near top for happiness: Survey ranks the Rose City at No. 12 in U.S.

Published on Thursday, 31 July 2014 00:09 - Written by Kelly Gooch, kgooch@tylerpaper.com

Kay Odom had some adjusting to do when she moved to Tyler from Baytown at age 16.

Mrs. Odom, now 66 and supervisor of the Tyler Senior Center, said Tyler was a change from being in a coastal town, but she came to enjoy the city.

She recalled that Tyler was clean, even back then, and on Friday nights, there was live music at Bergfeld Park, and on Saturday nights, dances took place at Tyler State Park.

“It just seemed like there was always something going on,” Mrs. Odom said.

“I just thought Tyler was the place to be,” she said.

As she’s gotten older, she said she looks at Tyler as being a senior retirement city, and being supervisor of the Tyler Senior Center, she realizes what Tyler offers for baby boomers. She also commended the local hospitals and doctors and referenced recent development in the city.

“To me, I think Tyler is the happiest place to be,” Mrs. Odom said.

Mrs. Odom is not alone in her happiness, according to a recent study by Edward Glaeser, a professor at Harvard University, Oren Ziv, a graduate student at Harvard University, and Joshua Gottlieb, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics.

The study looks at reported happiness in cities across America.

According to notes from Gottlieb, the research relies exclusively on answers reported by individuals nationwide, and the main data is from a large survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. Each year, about 300,000 people nationwide are asked, “In general, how satisfied are you with your life?”

They can answer “Very dissatisfied” to “Very satisfied,” and researchers take the answers, adjust them for individual demographics and rank cities based on the average of their adjusted answers, according to Gottlieb’s notes.

“Our demographic adjustments are intended to cancel out differences due to age, sex, race, or education,” his notes read. “Despite our adjustments, we still have to be careful in interpreting these measures because people in different places may have different conceptions of what happiness means. For example, it might take more to make a New Yorker say they are ‘very satisfied’ than it would take for someone in Louisiana to say the same thing.”

Based on rankings that are adjusted for individual demographics, Tyler is No. 12 in terms of the happiest metropolitan areas. No. 1 is Charlottesville, Virginia. Also making the top 12 are Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana, and Corpus Christi.

At the bottom of the list in terms of reported happiness are Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton, Pennsylvania, St. Joseph, Missouri, and Erie, Pennsylvania.

“The most striking fact in the data is that areas with the largest population declines since 1950 tend to have lower happiness,” according to Gottlieb’s notes. “Many declining cities in the Rust Belt, such as Detroit and Gary, Indiana, show up towards the bottom of the happiness rankings. Another striking fact is that places with more educated populations tend to be happier.”

He adds in his notes, “We (also) find evidence that people have other objectives in life beyond just maximizing happiness. The cities with low happiness levels, such as declining cities in the Rust Belt, still have something to offer. And we can see that from the fact that people still choose to live there, and even move there, despite their low reported happiness. In the case of the Rust Belt, the tradeoff may be access to cheaper housing. In the case of New York, higher incomes or unique professional opportunities might counteract low happiness levels.”

Here are why some Tyler residents are happy living here:

Housewife Susan Wells said when she travels, she meets people who either know someone from Tyler or have heard of Tyler. For instance, she went into a store in New Canaan, Connecticut and was told that an individual who works at the golf course there is from Tyler.

She and her husband have been in Tyler for 19 years.

She said her husband is a cyclist and wanted a place where he could cycle and fish. She said he also wanted a great place to practice medicine.

“I can see the changes in 19 years, and I really think we must have had a plan” as far as how the city would grow, she said.

Ms. Wells said she also believes that there are great opportunities for jobs in Tyler and that there are all kinds of places to live here, whether a college student is looking for something safe and affordable, or a family is looking to put down roots.

The city also has greenery, great public and private schools, great restaurants, all kinds of churches and a civic theater, she said. She also noted that there are various shopping options, such as Walmart and FRESH by Brookshire’s.

Therefore, she said, there’s a great combination of options that she doesn’t think is typically available in towns the size of Tyler.

“Most people…come and stay. They end up liking it,” Ms. Wells said.

Ana Bailey, 28, is a teacher at Rice Elementary School.

Born and raised in Tyler, she described the city as “the best small town you’ll ever live in.”

She said it’s small enough where an individual can have a big circle of friends but big enough where everyone’s not in each other’s business.

She said it’s also easy to make and keep friends in Tyler, the city is clean, and she always feels safe no matter what area of town she’s going to.

As a mother, Ms. Bailey said, she also loves that Tyler does a lot for children, and she and her 3-year-old child do something every weekend.

Additionally, she said, it’s a good place to raise a family and has options for various age groups.

Ms. Bailey said her husband, who grew up in Louisiana and moved to Tyler for economic opportunities, even considers Tyler home.

Dr. Aubrey Sharpe, 69, dean of continuing studies at Tyler Junior College and executive administrator of the West Campus, came to Tyler 25 years ago to build the regional training development complex, which ultimately became Tyler Junior College-West Campus.

When he came to Tyler, he said the was on the cusp of a great growth spurt, which was all tied to city fathers creating the Tyler Economic Development Council and deciding that Tyler needed to have a diverse economy.

He said he found it to be “the most welcoming place I’d ever been.”

“I found that if you’re willing to work and love and be loved, they’ll take you in,” Sharpe said.

He went on to describe the city as beautiful, progressive and well managed. He also noted Tyler’s college student population as well as its active chamber of commerce.

Additionally, Sharpe said he loves the newspaper and reads it each day, and is pleased about what is happening downtown in terms of events and development such as the new parking garage.

“I’m a settler. I’ve come to love it very much, and it didn’t take long to come to love Tyler,” he said.

He added, “Why would a fellow leave the Garden of Eden if you don’t have to?”