Urban Psychology

Where We Come From Counts

Making a life is about more than making a living, and a University of Michigan study has found that some cities lead with their heart, while others lead with their head. “The place where we grew up or currently reside… defines who we are, how we think about ourselves and others, and the way we live,” suggest researchers Nansook Park and Christopher Peterson. Hence the common query: “Where are you from?”

With more than half of the world’s total population living in cities, the researchers maintain that it’s time to assess what is right about urban life. So, they surveyed character strengths among more than 47,000 residents of the 50 largest U.S. cities.

They report that heart-strong cities tended to be warmer, less crowded and more community/teamwork oriented, with more families with children, and perhaps kinder and gentler overall. The five highest scoring heart-oriented cities were: El Paso, Texas; Mesa, Arizona; Miami; Virginia Beach; and Fresno, California.

Head-strong cities tended to be more intellectual, innovative and creative, with a greater number of patents per capita. They are often labeled as hot spots for talent and high-tech industries. The five top-scoring cities in this category were: San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland, California; Albuquerque; and Honolulu.

Some cities scored above average on both counts, including El Paso, Honolulu and Detroit.

Is it better to lead with your head or your heart? Each has its own advantages, the researchers conclude. Life may well be good in other towns, too, simply in different ways.

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