Special Report

The Happiest (and Most Miserable) Cities in America

10. Rockford, IL
> Poverty rate:
> 2016 unemployment rate: 8.5%
> Adult obesity rate: 31.9%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 664.8

There are 665 violent crimes for every 100,000 Rockford residents, far more than the national rate of 365.5 incidents per 100,000 people. Additionally, 8.5% of the metro area’s workforce is in need of a job, much higher than the 5.0% national unemployment rate. For area residents who have a job, salaries are relatively low. The typical Rockford household earns $48,385 annually, considerably less than $53,657 national median income.

Few cities have lost more people to migration alone in recent years than Rockford. From April 2010 to July 2015, 14,334 more people moved out of the metro area than moved in. High unemployment and violent crime rates as well as low wages all likely contribute to residents’ dissatisfaction in the area.

9. Toledo, OH
> Poverty rate:
> 2016 unemployment rate: 5.8%
> Adult obesity rate: 32.0%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 559.4

Toledo lags behind much of the nation in several health and social measures. In the metro area, 32.0% of adults are obese, a full 5 percentage points higher than the national obesity rate. While some negative health measures can lower one’s well-being, so can the lack of a stable support network. In Toledo, 40.4% of children are raised in single-parent households, a far greater share than the corresponding 34.0% national share.

Like many cities with low reported collective well-being, people are leaving Toledo. Over the past five years, the city lost 13,542 residents to migration alone. Only a handful of other U.S. metro areas experienced a more precipitous loss to outward migration.

8. Worcester, MA-CT
> Poverty rate:
> 2016 unemployment rate: 5.3%
> Adult obesity rate: 26.5%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 421.0

Worcester is the only metro area in New England to rank among the least happy in the country. The typical area household earns $64,556 annually, roughly $11,000 more than the national median. While area residents are relatively well off financially, the metro ranks low on Gallup’s financial well-being metric. The typical household across the state earns nearly $5,000 more than those in Worcester per year. This disparity could partially metro area residents’ relatively poor self-assessment of their financial well-being.

A high violent crime rate may further contribute to dissatisfaction among area residents. There are 421 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the metro area annually, considerably more than the national rate of 366 reported incidents per 100,000 people.

7. Dayton, OH
> Poverty rate:
> 2016 unemployment rate: 5.4%
> Adult obesity rate: 30.6%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 270.7

Poor economic conditions in Dayton likely detract from its residents’ sense of well-being. The area’s 17.3% poverty rate is higher than the 15.5% national poverty rate. The typical area household earns $46,697 annually, considerably less than the $53,657 the typical American household earns.

Poor economic conditions are likely contributing to the city’s dwindling population. In recent years, 5,898 more people have left than have moved to the city, making Dayton one of a minority of U.S. metro areas with a net migration loss.

6. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA
> Poverty rate:
> 2016 unemployment rate: 8.5%
> Adult obesity rate: 32.1%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 243.3

The Youngstown metropolitan area is situated in Ohio’s Mahoning Valley, an area once known for its booming steel industry. As U.S. steel manufacturing lost ground to cheaper international steel imports in the 1970s and 1980s, local economies in Youngstown and other steel towns began to struggle. Residents today still lament Black Monday, when numerous steel mills in the Mahoning Valley announced their closing in 1977. The announcements spelled the downfall of the area’s economy and was followed by further closings .

Today, the typical Youngstown household earns $42,228 a year, about $11,000 less than the $53,657 national median household income. The metro area’s unemployment rate of 8.5% is significantly higher than the 5.0% national unemployment rate. The economy is starting to rebound, however. Since 2001, Youngstown’s GDP per capita grew by 12.8%, faster than the national growth rate of 9.5% over that period. Nevertheless, Youngstown has some of the lowest levels of happiness in the country, and since 2010 the city lost more than 8,000 residents due to migration.