Residents of Los Angeles and California report a lower satisfaction with life than people in the rest of the United States do, according to a recent University of Southern California survey.
The quarterly LABarometer survey is designed by the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research. For its first report, published Oct. 16 on the topic of livability, a total of 1,274 adults from LA County responded to questions about life satisfaction, consumer sentiment and social engagement. The data was then compared to a survey of over 5,500 national participants, including those who responded to the LABarometer survey and 827 other adults from California.
Money buys less happiness in LA County
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"In our review of the results, a single resounding theme is that the high cost of living in LA County permeates the lives of residents in a number of ways," the report stated.
The survey found that, while LA County residents are generally more happy than unhappy, they are slightly less so than the rest of the country. On a life satisfaction scale of one to seven, LA County respondents averaged a score of 4.4, compared to the national average of 4.6. California residents – excluding those from LA County – were between the two at 4.5.
The report explains that this difference is due to the presence of certain negative factors in the county, including a higher likelihood of renting a home and earning a low income instead of owning a home and earning a middle income.
The study also shows that though income impacts life satisfaction regardless of location, it has less of an effect on LA County residents. For example, those with a household income of $60,000 to $100,000 report a higher satisfaction with life compared to residents in LA County and California earning the same income.
The cause of this may be the higher cost of living in LA County, the report states, as those with higher incomes in the county may see less of the benefits – such as home ownership – experienced by residents in the rest of the country. A USC simulation found that life satisfaction evened out across the country when the cost of living in LA County was applied nationwide.
Additionally, finances was the most significant factor affecting residents’ life satisfaction – followed by family life and self-confidence – but it was also the factor most respondents said they were unhappy with.
Hispanics, Blacks report lower amount of affordable rent in LA County compared to rest of country
While rent is high for all groups in the county, Blacks and Hispanic populations report a much lower amount of affordable rent than non-Hispanic whites – and the disparity is much wider than it is in the rest of the United States. The difference in median rent paid between non-Hispanic Whites and non-Hispanic Blacks in LA County, for example, is $610, compared to $23 in other areas of the country.
"Greater racial and ethnic disparities in what renters pay and what they believe they can afford in L.A., and California more generally, likely coincide with greater racial and ethnic disparities in access to quality housing and neighborhoods," the study explained.
Social trust, cleanliness matter more in neighborhood satisfaction than affordability, traffic
While most county participants agreed there is a high level of traffic in their neighborhoods, the USC study found that its presence matters less when they consider how satisfied they are with their neighborhood. Residents care more that they can trust their neighbors and how clean and safe the area is.
Affordability was not seen as especially significant when determining a resident’s satisfaction with their neighborhood, though it was deemed important when calculating life satisfaction and is the primary reason given for residents staying in or leaving their current neighborhood.
Overall, 70% of LA County residents reported that they are at least somewhat satisfied with their current neighborhood, and 79% plan to remain in their current residence.
However, 7% plan to leave the county entirely.
The LABarometer project will publish a study about transportation in Los Angeles in the winter.
To view the full report from USC, click here.