So, Business Week magazine has ranked Portland as the most unhappy city in America.
Basically, they pulled a few randomly-selected metrics, misinterpreted them, gave 'em a little stir, and "discovered" that Portlanders are really, secretly miserable.
What facts did they use to justify this claim? Well, we've got 222 cloudy days a year. (Or at least, we did in 2004.) We rank 24th out of 50 in crime. We're #4 in the nation in our divorce rate. We've got a 7.8% unemployment rate. And we're ranked #12 for suicide and #1 for depression.
But wait just a minute. Take a look at the fine print.
The depression rate is based on drug company data on antidepressant sales.
In other words, Portlanders may not be more depressed than anyone else - we've just got more people who are getting medical attention for their illness. Which probably means that they're less unhappy.
And that divorce rate? I suspect that has more to do with the fact that Oregon is the least-churchgoing state in the country. Staying in a loveless or abusive marriage (perhaps because of your religious beliefs) is surely a pathway to unhappiness - though Business Week's metrics imply that it's the other way around.
Let's talk about some other metrics.
- Portland is the #1 greenest city in America, with top ten rankings in air quality, water quality, green building, local agriculture, and more.
- Utne Reader ranked Portland as the #2 most enlightened city in the nation.
- The readers of Travel & Leisure magazine rated Portland one of their favorite cities to visit - simultaneously ranking us #4 for an active/adventure vacation and #5 for a relaxing/retreat vacation. They ranked us #1 for pedestrian friendliness, #4 for public safety, #5 for our underground arts scene, #6 for "friendly", #8 for "fun", #9 for dining, #10 for theatre, #12 for live music, etc.
- In 2005, Outside Magazine called Portland one of the "new American dream towns", noting that:
On average, Portlanders spend more on reading material, watch more indie films, and grow more flowers than their countrymen. Portlanders drink better beer than most, too, with 23 microbreweries within city limits.
- And actually, that's now 30 breweries in the city limits and 38 in the metro area - more than any metropolis in the world.
- Slate magazine has noted that we've become "America's indie rock mecca" - but not because there's some amazing music scene, but simply because accomplished artists come through on tour and decide to stay. As they put it:
It might not be enough to lure the glitterati, but Portland's combination of affordability, natural beauty, and laid-back weirdness is an independent artist's dream.
- And it's not just the artistic side of the "creative class" - it's the techie side, too. Fast Company called Portland one of fifteen fast cities - "places that draw people who are talented, tech savvy, and tolerant."
Would any of this be possible if everyone here was miserable? I don't think so.
Of course, Portland is so green and creative and happy because our city was built on the site of an ancient unicorn burial ground.
(No, really. It's true. It really is. At least, if you're being interviewed by the New York Times. Then it's true. And everybody in Portland knows it. Really.)
So, are you happy?
Update: More about those unicorns in Portland.