Special Report

The Happiest (and Most Miserable) Cities in America

The Most Miserable Cities in America

25. Memphis, TN-MS-AR
> Poverty rate:
20.3%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 5.6%
> Adult obesity rate: 34.4%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 1033.5

The level of crime in an area can have a significant impact on personal happiness. Memphis has the highest violent crime rate of any city in the country and some of the lowest reported levels of personal well-being. A uniquely dangerous place, people have been leaving Memphis in recent years. From April 2010 to July 2015, the city lost 20,849 residents due to migration alone. Along with a high prevalence of violent crime, economic conditions for those in the Memphis area are poor. Roughly one in five residents receive food stamps benefits, and nearly 31% of children in the metro area live below the poverty line.

24. Spartanburg, SC
> Poverty rate:
17.8%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 5.3%
> Adult obesity rate: 30.1%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 394.3

Financial insecurity often leads to stress, and Spartanburg residents are more likely to live in poverty than most Americans. Median household income in the area is approximately $10,500 less than it is across the country as a whole. The lower incomes are likely due in part to low educational attainment. Only 21.8% of adults in Spartanburg have a bachelor’s degree, a considerably smaller share than the 30.1% national college attainment rate.

Physical health is another important component of personal well-being, and many Spartanburg residents are not especially healthy. More than 18% of metro area adults report being in fair or poor health, considerably more than the corresponding 14% national rate.

23. Fort Wayne, IN
> Poverty rate:
14.6%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 4.7%
> Adult obesity rate: 28.8%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 229.7

Low real estate costs are indicative of less desirable areas, and rent prices in Fort Wayne are roughly 30% lower than they are across the country. Indeed, by several measures, life in the metro area is less than ideal. An active lifestyle may be more difficult to maintain in Fort Wayne, as only 78.5% of area residents have adequate access to places for physical activity such as parks or recreation centers. Across the country, 84.0% of Americans have access to such facilities. Perhaps as a result, adults in the area are less likely to exercise than adults in the country as a whole.

22. Cleveland-Elyria, OH
> Poverty rate:
15.9%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 4.9%
> Adult obesity rate: 28.5%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: N/A

Economic hardship is relatively common in Cleveland as 15.3% of metro area residents receive food stamps, a larger share than the 13.2% of Americans. Additionally, 24.2% of children in the area live below the poverty line, a larger share than the 21.7% of American children. A relatively unhappy place, people are leaving Cleveland faster than they are arriving. Over the past five years, the Cleveland metro area lost a net of 27,711 residents to migration alone, the third largest decline of any city in the country.

21. Evansville, IN-KY
> Poverty rate:
16.0%
> 2016 unemployment rate: 4.7%
> Adult obesity rate: 32.5%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 291.6

The level of air pollution in Evansville is the third worst of any U.S. metro area. Recently, two power plants in the area have agreed to reduce their air emissions and conform to new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at curbing pollution. While these efforts may improve air quality in Evansville, the city’s long history of poor air quality has likely had an impact on the happiness of its residents.

The average Evansville resident reports feeling in poor mental and physical health for four days out of every month, significantly more than the 3.5 days spent in such unhealthy states by the average American.