The city you live in has a personality of its own – and it may be influencing your self-esteem

New research suggests that you may need to look at an unusual factor when considering a move to a new city – its personality. A study published in Psychological Science in 2016 found small but statistically significant links between your self-esteem and the personalities of the people living in the same city as you.

The researchers decided to compare the Big 5 personality traits (openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and emotional stability) of individuals to the Big 5 personality traits that were most prevalent in a particular city.  This was to determine if there was a link to self-esteem.  The researchers also looked at religiosity in a city as possibly being linked to self-esteem.

There has been no previous research done on the person-city personality relationship with self-esteem.  In spite of this, it has been found that an ideal match of a person’s characteristics to the characteristics of their environment can have beneficial effects on one’s overall satisfaction and self-esteem.  Past studies have mirrored this finding by stating that how similar one’s personality traits are to the traits of the majority of people that live around them gives one a sense of belonging.

With these past findings in mind, the current study examined whether people’s self-esteem would increase the more their personality traits matched those that were most prevalent in the city they lived in.

The researchers administered various self-rated assessments online to over half a million people in 860 U.S. cities between the ages of 16 and 60.  The assessments were taken from December 1998 to December 2009.

The results indicated that self-esteem was most strongly associated with emotional stability and extraversion, regardless of the personality of a city.  This finding suggests that the sturdiest connection between personality traits and self-esteem exists separately from environmental influences.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered a small but significant link between self-esteem and the person-city personality relationship for the other three of the Big 5 traits (openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness).  In other words, people tended to have an increased level of self-esteem in the cities in which the inhabitants also possessed similar personality traits to themselves.

In terms of religiosity, the findings showed that those more devoted to religion maintained a higher level of self-esteem than those who remained more or less uninvolved religiously.  These results similarly mirror the previous results regarding personality.  The predominant religiosity of a city is just as likely to predict high self-esteem as the predominant personality traits are.  These results and those mentioned in the last paragraph also support the conclusions of similar research conducted in past studies.

But the researchers noted that people with high self-esteem and productive traits could have an advantage over others at choosing cities that best fit their personality.  In other words, the people that have an overall healthier view of life and possess positive personality traits may be better equipped at choosing cities that are the best fit for them and their goals in life.

It is also unclear whether the results of the study would hold up in other countries around the world that have varying cultures and beliefs.  After all, what is prevalent in the United States is not always seen as such elsewhere in the world.

In sum, choosing a city for the sole reason that its inhabitants think and act similarly to you is not the best piece of advice. A bonus, yes.  But, as this study has concluded, it is not essential for the satisfaction and well-being of your self-esteem.

The study, “To Live Among Like-Minded Others: Exploring the Links Between Person-City Personality Fit and Self-Esteem,” was authored by Wiebke Bleidorn, Felix Schönbrodt, Jochen E. Gebauer, Peter J. Rentfrow, Jeff Potter, and Samuel D. Gosling.