The Impact of Urban and Regional Inequalities on the Geography of Happiness and Discontent

by Prof. Dimitris Ballas

Date: Wednesday, Jun 29, 2022 | time to be confirmed

Abstract: The importance of spatial context in the analysis of happiness has long been recognized in economic studies, including the seminal work by Easterlin (1974) who considered the impact of national Gross Domestic Project on well-being. Since then, there have been a considerable number of studies that consider both individual and household characteristics as well as spatial context and the argument for adopting an explicitly geographical approach has been increasingly highlighted. This presentation offers an economic geography perspective on the analysis of happiness, unhappiness and discontent, with a particular focus on urban inequalities and what may be seen as key ingredients for a happy city (building on and updating previous work on this topic reported in Ballas, 2013). First individual- and household-level determinants of subjective well-being are considered by briefly reviewing the current state of the art in the emerging field known as the Economics of Happiness. This is followed by an argument for a Spatial Economics and Economic Geography perspective (Ballas, 2021) including analysis of the possible impact of socio-spatial inequalities (Ballas and Thanis, 2022) and urban/rural comparisons of subjective quality of life at small area level (Weckroth et al..2022). The presentation also includes relevant geovisulisations with the use of new innovative ways of visualizing the spatial distribution of happiness and related variables (Ballas et al., 2017). In addition, an attempt to link the literature of the geography of happiness and well-being to the geographies of discontent (and the ‘places that do not matter’) literature is also presented, including an analysis of voting for self-proclaimed ‘anti-establishment political parties’ drawing upon recent and on-going research conducted at the University of Groningen (Koeppen et al., 2021). The talk concludes with a brief discussion of relevant theoretical insights as well as new possibilities for advanced spatial analysis (including the use of spatial microsimulation and spatial econometrics).


Ballas, D, (2013), What makes a ‘happy city’?, Cities, volume 32, s39–s50,

Ballas D. (2021), The Economic Geography of Happiness. In: Zimmermann K.F. (eds) Handbook of Labor, Human Resources and Population Economics, Springer, Cham

Ballas, D., Dorling, D. and Hennig, B.D. (2017) Analysing the regional geography of poverty, austerity and inequality in Europe: a human cartographic perspective, Regional Studies, vol. 51, pp. 174-185.

Ballas, D., Thanis, I. (2022) Exploring the Geography of Subjective Happiness in Europe During the Years of the Economic Crisis: A Multilevel Modelling Approach. Social Indicators Research.

Easterlin, R. A. (1974). "Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot? Some Empirical Evidence" in David, P. A. and Reder, M. W. (eds.), Nations and Households in Economic Growth: Essays in Honor of Moses Abramovitz, New York and London: Academic Press, pp. 89-125.

Koeppen L, Ballas D, Edzes A, Koster S (2021) Places that don’t matter or people that don’t matter? A multilevel modelling approach to the analysis of geographies of discontent. Regional Science Policy and Practice, 13, pp. 221-245,

Weckroth, M., Ala-Mantila, S., Ballas, D, Ziogas, T, Ikonen, J (2022), Urbanity, Neighbourhood Characteristics and Perceived Quality of Life (QoL): Analysis of Individual and Contextual Determinants for Perceived QoL in 3300 Postal Code Areas in Finland. Social Indicators Research.

Speaker Biography: Prof. Dimitris Ballas is Full Professor (Chair in Economic Geography) in the Department of Economic Geography, Faculty of Spatial Sciences. He is an economist by training (1996, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece) and also has a Master of Arts (with distinction) in Geographical Information Systems (1997, University of Leeds, UK) and a PhD in Geography (2001, University of Leeds, UK). He has also previously worked as Associate Professor at the University of the Aegean, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield and has also held Visiting Research Scholar positions at the University of Cambridge, Harvard University, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Austria) and a Visiting Professor position at Ritsumeikan University (Japan). He has published widely in the fields of social and economic geography, social and spatial inequalities, the geography of happiness and well-being regional science and Geoinformatics in the Social Sciences.