Special Report

The Happiest (and Most Miserable) Cities in America

20. San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX
> Poverty rate:
16.7%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 3.7%
> Adult obesity rate: 28.5%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 404.9

In Greater San Antonio, residents are happy, healthy, and motivated. Just 3.7% of the metro area’s workforce is unemployed, which may help to contribute to the strong sense of purpose reported by area residents. San Antonio-New Braunfels is located near the Mexican border and has one of the warmer climates in the country. The environment is clean overall — the average 8.5 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter found in San Antonio’s air is one of the lower instances of pollution of any U.S. metro area. Perhaps as a result, 78.5% of area adults exercise regularly, a higher share than the 77.0% of adults who do nationwide.

San Antonio’s favorable environment has been attracting many new residents over the past few years. From 2010 to 2015, a net total of 152,107 new residents moved to San Antonio-New Braunfels, one of the largest net migrations of any U.S. metro area in that time.

19. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL
> Poverty rate:
16.3%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 4.7%
> Adult obesity rate: 25.5%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 439.4

For a variety of reasons, Florida is an ideal state for many American retirees. In Cape Coral-Fort Myers, one of the happiest cities in the country, more than one-quarter of the population is older than 64 years of age, a larger share than in all but a handful of other U.S. metro areas. In recent years, the metro area has become an especially popular destination for those relocating. Due to migration alone, the area’s’ population has grown by nearly 82,000 in the past five years, one of the largest such expansions anywhere in the country.

Metro area residents have many reasons to be happy. Unemployment and violent crimes are less common in Cape Coral-Fort Myers than across the state, and the average cost of goods and services in the metro area is lower than it is across the state and the country.

18. Ann Arbor, MI
> Poverty rate:
14.5%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 2.9%
> Adult obesity rate: 23.3%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 285.0

Home to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is one of many college towns amongst the happiest metro areas in the country. According to figures published by the university, the system has created over 9,000 jobs in Ann Arbor since 2001 and has helped launch more than 100 companies, about 60% of which have stayed in the metro area. Perhaps as a result, Ann Arbor’s 2.9% unemployment rate is the fifth lowest of U.S. cities. Similarly, 53.0% of area adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, the third highest educational attainment rate in the country.

The university system also helps provide quality medical care to the Ann Arbor metro area. For every 100,000 people in the city, there are 173 primary care physicians and 155 dentists, each the second highest such coverage ratio in the country.

17. Austin-Round Rock, TX
> Poverty rate:
15.1%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 3.2%
> Adult obesity rate: 23.3%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 290.9

Home to University of Texas at Austin, the Austin-Round Rock metro area’s population is one of the youngest in the country. Less than 10% of Austin’s residents are 65 years and older. As is the case in many of country’s happiest metro areas, people have been flocking to Austin in recent years. The metro area is now home to roughly 192,900 more people than in April 2010 due to migration alone. Having a strong sense of purpose and financial security are important to personal happiness, and the area’s low unemployment rate likely contributes to both. Only 2.9% of the Austin-Red Rock’s workforce is in need a of a job, one of the lowest jobless rates in the country and considerably lower than the 5.3% national unemployment rate.

16. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA
> Poverty rate:
11.3%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 5.3%
> Adult obesity rate: 20.6%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 222.9

Financial instability can greatly detract from personal happiness. In the Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura metro area, one of the happiest in the country, the typical household earns $75,449 a year, over $20,000 more than the typical American household. With a higher median income, poverty is far less common in the Oxnard metro area than it is across the country. Only 11.3% of area residents live below the poverty line compared to the 15.5% national poverty rate.

Like many of the happiest metro areas in the country, Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura is relatively safe. There are 222.9 violent crimes annually for every 100,000 area residents, far fewer than the national rate of 365.5 incidents per 100,000 people.