Special Report

The Happiest (and Most Miserable) Cities in America

15. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
> Poverty rate:
8.7%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 3.9%
> Adult obesity rate: 19.6%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 249.8

Residents of the San Jose metro area are some of the healthiest and wealthiest people in the country. The typical area household makes $96,481 a year, the most of any U.S. metro area. The 18.2% of San Jose households with annual incomes of at least $200,000 is much larger than the 5.3% of American households with similar incomes. Greater resources can provide for more leisure time and ultimately aid in leading happier, healthier lives.

In San Jose, 84.7% of adults exercise regularly, a much larger share than the 77.0% of adults who do nationwide. While wealth is no guarantee of long life, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara has the lowest instance of premature death in the country. Just 3,770 years of life are lost due to premature death before the age of 75 per 100,000 metro area residents annually, much less than the corresponding 6,600 years of life lost nationally.

14. Provo-Orem, UT
> Poverty rate:
12.5%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 3.1%
> Adult obesity rate: 23.3%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: N/A

Only 7.2% of the Provo-Orem metro area’s population is older than 64, the smallest such share of any U.S. metro area. An especially young city, the Provo-Orem population is relatively healthy, and physical well-being can be a crucial component of personal happiness. Adults in the metro area are less likely to report physically or mentally unhealthy days than is typical among adults across the state and the country. Provo-Orem residents are also more likely to exhibit healthy behaviors than is typical across the country. Only 7% of metro area adults have a smoking habit, a far smaller share than the 17% national adult smoking rate. Additionally, nearly 85% of adults in Provo-Orem exercise regularly, a far greater share than the 77% of American adults.

13. Urban Honolulu, HI
> Poverty rate:
9.7%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 3.0%
> Adult obesity rate: 21.9%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: N/A

Although Urban Honolulu has the highest cost of living of any U.S. metro areas, residents report some of the lowest levels of financial stress. This may be due in part to high incomes in the area. The typical Urban Honolulu household makes $74,634 a year, the 11th highest median income nationwide.

Honolulu is the most urban part of Hawaii, and 94.6% of residents have access to a gym, park, or other opportunity for physical activity. Residents are certainly taking advantage of their proximity to such opportunities as 81.3% exercise regularly, a much larger share than the 77.0% of adults who do nationwide. Similarly, just 21.9% of residents are obese compared to a 27.0% national obesity rate. Overall, Urban Honolulu reports some of the best health outcomes in country. The average resident spends just 2.6 days in poor physical health and 2.7 days in poor mental health per month, nearly the least of any metro area.

12. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA
> Poverty rate:
18.0%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 5.7%
> Adult obesity rate: 19.0%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 293.4

One of the happiest metro areas, Santa Maria-Santa Barbara is also one of the safest. There are 293.4 violent crimes per 100,000 residents annually, far fewer than the nationwide violent crime rate of 365.5 incidents per 100,000 Americans.

As in many of the country’s happiest metro areas, low violent crime rates accompany the area’s high incomes. A typical Santa Maria-Santa Barbara household earns $63,833 annually over $10,000 more than the typical American household. Higher incomes help offset the area’s high cost of real estate. Largely due to its location along the Pacific coast in southern California, rent prices in Santa Maria-Santa Barbara are roughly 65% higher than they are across the country on average.

11. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
> Poverty rate:
34.0%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 8.1%
> Adult obesity rate: 36.7%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 329.4

Located near the southern tip of Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border, the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metro area does not fit the profile of many of the other happiest U.S. cities. The area’s poverty and unemployment rates are far higher than the corresponding state and national rates. Additionally, the typical metro area household earns nearly $20,000 less than the typical American household and the typical Texas households.

According to a report by Brookings, a think tank that conducts research on metropolitan policy, there has been an influx of low-income immigrants from Mexico to the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission suburbs in recent years. Though economic conditions in the area may lag behind much of the nation, they are likely a marked improvement for many area residents, contributing greatly to personal happiness.