People Who Live In Cities Are Actually More Patient Than People In Suburbia

Depressed. Stressed. Apathetic. Aloof. Rude...

Adjectives used to describe city dwellers typically range from not complimentary to insulting, with a side of sweeping generalizations. Whether it's due to the pace, the population or temperatures, both city residents and outsiders like to characterize city living as not all it's chalked up to be.

But science has evidence to suggest otherwise.

Led by researcher Oliver Sng, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology released a study that proposes an unexpected long-term benefit of living in a city: patience.

One of the many tropes sold to the American public about New York City in particular is that everyone is in a rush.

And although these depictions are usually caricatures of everyday life, it's not too far from the truth, especially in New York City. However the researchers found that perhaps the quick pace of every day leads to something they refer to as a "slow life history" strategy.

It's a little complicated, but basically a life history is pattern of behavior denoted by the length of life expectancy for any given animal.

So if an animal expects to live longer, they have fewer babies, and later in life (slower) – versus if the animal expects to live shorter, they have more babies, and earlier (faster).

Jayme Burrows

So a "slower life history" strategy would be typical of humans since we have the average life expectancy of 78 years.

And what researchers found was that within a slower life history strategy, there are variations that can be evoked just by thinking about living in a densely populated area, e.g. a city.

The study forced participants to concentrate on high-density areas, then afterward, the participants were given a survey asking questions like when to do they want to have children, or when they would prefer to receive a reward: small increments now or a large sum later.

Results across all six experimental conditions found that those confronted with a high-density area typically chose to prolong their preparation time for life events (having children, more schooling, etc.).

Melanie Kintz

OK but what does this even mean?

For one, it means that environments are still affecting human behavior in an evolutionary way. Two, it means that city slickers might look like they are living the fast life now, but in the long run everyone knows that slow and steady wins the race.

Here are our proposed reasons why this is phenomenon is happening (at least in New York):

1. Pizza Lines


It's 2 am and after a long night of binge watching Netflix (or binge drinking) all you want is a slice of New York's finest.

Once you finally get yourself together to go grab a slice, what do you see? 50 other people who had the same idea.

2. Ridesharing Apps


It used to be that if you wanted to get from point A to point B and not take public transportation, you'd brave the elements on the corner of any given street and hail a cab.

Obviously now that Uber and Lyft have been integrated into city life, the days of standing out in the rain are coming to an end.

However, drivers are becoming more scarce, meaning that even though the CEO says average wait time is three minutes, it's usually much longer.

And New Yorkers have gotten used to it.

3. Tourists

This is not specific to New York by any means.

Washington DC and Chicago might even have it worse. But during tourist season, aka summer, every street corner is filled with people turning in circles, waving around selfie sticks, arguing over which direction to go next.

And amid the mobs of confusion are Chicagoans or New Yorkers just trying to get to work.

4. Grocery Shopping

Every neighborhood in the city has its own little bodega or grocery store where you can get your eggs and milk, but sometimes you've got to trek it to the nearest Trader Joes or Whole Foods: and no matter the time, expect the fattest line.

5. Spring

Imagine this: It's mid March and the average temperature around the country has been a steady 50 degrees. Excited, you start purchasing jeans with holes, sundresses, white tennis shoes, floral patterns.

Finally, you think, I've missed the sun. 

Boom, snow storm.

So yeah, it makes sense that New Yorkers would learn to be patient over the years.

We've been through a lot, and we know all the "hardships" are just part of paying into the greater reward: the chance to live in one of the greatest cities in the world.

Citations: Mental Floss,