How to Choose the Right Neighborhood for You

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Where we settle down isn't just about the living space we choose. Neighborhoods and all their infrastructure play a huge role in how happy we are — how long it takes to get to work, whether you can walk to restaurants, how close you live to green space, what kinds of amenities it has or lacks. You'd think there would be some kind of universal standard that could help you tick off a wish list for the perfect place to live, but researchers have uncovered something else.

Psychologists at Michigan State University have just released a study collecting neighborhood satisfaction data from more than 400,000 people across 11 countries in North America, Europe, and Asia. The surveys included responses from all across spectrums of race, class, and income, yet somehow the things that make up neighborhood, "from curb appeal to its services, like snow plowing," only comprise 16 percent of how satisfied a person is with their location.

"[T]here is a lot of variation in satisfaction even among people in the same neighborhood," said study author Zachary Neal. "That tells us something besides the neighborhood itself is responsible for how much satisfaction each person reports having."

In other words, most of what makes you love where you live is actually individual. Of course, your choice of housing also has a certain effect, but mostly, if you can find the neighborhood that sparks joy, in whatever combination of pros and cons that happens, your satisfaction with your living arrangements will find its level.