The 10 Most Miserable Cities In The United States

These are the unhappiest American cities where the economies are the worst, commute times are horrible, and where people aren’t married.

Do you live in one of the most miserable places in America?

Only a third of Americans say they are truly happy. That’s too bad, considering that Americans don’t really have it too bad, in the grand scheme of things.

But, we were curious – which American cities might be the most miserable? We’re about to find out, using Saturday Night Science.

After analyzing the largest cities, we sadly present the most miserable cities in the United States:

  1. Newark, NJ
  2. Miami, Fl
  3. San Bernardino, CA
  4. Los Angeles, CA
  5. Detroit, MI
  6. Chicago, IL
  7. Long Beach, CA
  8. Atlanta, GA
  9. Oakland, CA
  10. Richmond, VA

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your town ranked. If you have a smile on your face, you probably don’t live in one of these cities.

Oh, and by the way, Omaha, Nebraska is the happiest place in America.

For related reading:

1. Newark, NJ

Newark, NJ

Source: Wikipedia User Jamaalcobbs at English Wikipedia | CC BY-SA 3.0

Population: 278,750
People Who Own Their Home: 18%
Unemployment rank: 19%

If you’ve ever been to Newark, it would be hard to dispute this ranking. While other cities such as Detroit and New Orleans take some heat for crime and outright poverty, it’s Newark that takes the cake when it comes to sheer unhappiness.

After all, when 1 in 5 of your residents is out of work, and even less than that can actually afford to buy a home, that’s a sign of sheer unhappiness. Who wants to stay at home all day long in an apartment and suffer?

Additionally, a quarter of the population of Newark doesn’t have health insurance, adding to the stress levels of this New Jersey city.

2. Miami, Fl

Miami, FL

Source: Wikipedia User Averette | CC BY 3.0

Population: 416,203
People Who Own Their Home: 25%
Poverty rate: 25%

Miami is really the have’s and have not’s when you look at the data. More than 1 in 4 people in Miami lives in poverty, and 1 in 4 Miami residents own their own home. That alone is one sign that a city might be a little bit unhappy.

What else makes Miami a miserable place, for the most part? A third of the population is without health insurance, and 12% are out of work on a regular basis.

3. San Bernardino, CA

San Bernardino, CA

Source: Flickr User MOHSEN.WISE | CC BY 2.0

Population: 213,034
Married: 36%
Unemployment rank: 18%

San Bernardino’s population continues to shrink by the day. This Inland Empire city has seen crime go upwards for the last 20 years. It was once the murder capital of the nation for a year in the 1990’s, and the way things are headed, this city just might get there again.

While almost half of the population of San Bernardino owns their home, the other half is simply struggling. If you’ve ever driven down Highland or Base Line at 2 p.m. on a weekday, it’s quite clear that a large part of the population here is not driven to succeed.

4. Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, CA

Source: Wikipedia User Nserrano | CC BY-SA 3.0

Population: 3,862,210
People Who Own Their Home: 34%
Commute time: 30 minutes

If you have a job and you live in the city of Los Angeles, you’re already ahead of the game. 1 in 9 residents is out of work in L.A. But, odds are if you do have a job, you’re sitting in traffic for large segments of your mornings and afternoons.

What else makes the City of Angels so miserable? The cost of living is through the roof, and crime is far, far higher than the national average. Plus, the city hasn’t had a sports championship in about 10 years.

5. Detroit, MI

Detroit, MI

Source: Wikipedia User User:AE at Quicken Loans | CC BY-SA 1.0

Population: 695,203
Married: 23%
Unemployment rank: 27%

Things have actually improved for Detroit over the last 5 years or so. Back then, there’s no doubt Motor City would have been at the top of this list.

While Detroit has seen a small resurgence in business and arts development, the fact is that it leads the nation (by a long shot) in number of unemployed and unmarried residents. The fact is, having a steady paycheck and a spouse at home can really make the difference when it comes to happiness levels.

6. Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

Source: Flickr User ::RodrixParedes:: | CC BY 2.0

Population: 2,716,293
People Who Own Their Home: 38%
Commute time: 34 minutes

There are only two other places in America where people sit in their cars more often going to and from work. Meaning Chicago residents are working longer hours, and dealing with a cost of living increase at the same time.

Only a third of Chicago residents are married, 1 in 8 are out of work, and 20% live in poverty. So while a large part of Chicago is great for arts and entertainment, you probably want to live in the ‘burbs if you want to be happy here.

7. Long Beach, CA

Long Beach, CA

Source: Wikipedia User Tisoy, Matthew Field, Clinton Steeds, Regular Daddy, Los Angeles | CC BY-SA 3.0

Population: 468,304
Cost of living: 17th highest in America
Commute time 29 minutes

There are some great areas along California’s coast, and then there are places like Long Beach. It’s expensive, crowded and frankly, a fairly large part of the city is broke and jobless.

8. Atlanta, GA

Atlanta, GA

Source: Wikipedia User Isawooty | CC BY-SA 3.0

Population: 440,483
Married: 27%
Unemployment rank: 13%

The commute times in Atlanta can be so bad these days that people park and walk miles to get to their offices. That is if you actually have a job to begin with; only 7 in 8 people has a steady paycheck.

On top of that, Atlanta ranks 6th in the nation for number of people who aren’t married. While some people might make a case that being married actually causes more stress, a married life has been proven to bring happiness to one’s life.

9. Oakland, CA

Oakland, CA

Source: Wikipedia User Basil D Soufi | CC BY-SA 3.0

Population: 402,394
Cost of living: 12th highest
Commute time: 10th highest

It’s getting so out of hand with the cost of living in Oakland (and the entire Bay Area) that there’s a crisis at hand. People are having to move even further out into the suburbs to afford a home, which is putting a strain on the public transportation.

And what about the crime? Oakland is a very dangerous place in many areas.

It’s ironic that the Sunshine State has 4 of the top 10 cities on this list of unhappy places to live.

10. Richmond, VA

Richmond, VA

Source: Wikipedia User CoredesatChikai | CC BY-SA 2.0

Population: 211,063
Married rate: 26%
Poverty rate: 23%

Here’s what makes Richmond an unhappy place: There are almost as many people in Richmond who live in poverty as there are married people. In fact, only three other cities in America have less married people than Richmond, Virginia.

Plenty of people here are without health insurance or a job as well.

How do you decide if an American city is miserable or not?

In order to rank the unhappiest places in the USA, we had to determine what criteria makes people happy. It isn’t a stretch to assume that happy people earn great salaries, are relatively stress free, and have a stable home life.

So we went to the Census’s American Community Survey report for the criteria, flipped the list, and it spit out the answer. Like magic.

We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible:

  • Percentage of residents without health insurance
  • Average commute times
  • Unemployment rates
  • Cost of living
  • % of married couples
  • % of home owners
  • Poverty rate

After we decided on the criteria, we gathered the data for the largest cities in America.

We then ranked each place for each of the seven criteria with a score of one being the most miserable (Any ties were given to the larger place).

Next, we averaged the seven rankings into a Miserable Index for each place with the lowest overall Miserable Index “earning” the title “Most Miserable City In America.”

If you’d like to see the complete list of cities, most miserable to happiest, scroll to the bottom of this post to see the unabridged chart.

The Most Miserable Cities In The US

Like we said earlier, trying to determine the most miserable cities in America is usually a subjective matter. But if you’re analyzing cities where people are not stable, where you’re stuck in traffic, and lots of people are single, then this is an accurate list.

If you’re curious enough, here are the happiest cities in America, according to science:

  1. Omaha, Nebraska
  2. Virginia Beach, Virginia
  3. Gilbert, Arizona
  4. Scottsdale, Arizona
  5. Chandler, Arizona
  6. Des Moines, Iowa
  7. Wichita, Kansas

The Most Miserable to Happiest Cities In America

City Rank
Newark 1
Miami 2
San Bernardino 3
Los Angeles 4
Detroit 5
Chicago 6
Long Beach 7
Atlanta 8
Oakland 9
Richmond 10
Jersey City 11
Cleveland 12
Baltimore 13
New York 14
Boston 15
Stockton 16
Hialeah 17
Paradise 18
New Orleans 19
Fresno 20
Houston 21
Orlando 22
Rochester 23
Cincinnati 24
Birmingham 25
Milwaukee 26
Dallas 27
Sacramento 27
Riverside 29
Philadelphia 30
Norfolk 31
Tucson 32
Santa Ana 33
Memphis 34
Buffalo 35
Tampa 36
Anaheim 37
San Francisco 38
Reno 39
Modesto 40
Phoenix 41
Baton Rouge 42
North Las Vegas 43
Glendale 44
Minneapolis 45
Toledo 46
Pittsburgh 47
Winston-Salem 48
Indianapolis 49
Arlington 50
Portland 51
Durham 52
Las Vegas 53
San Diego 54
Columbus 55
Denver 55
Aurora 57
Greensboro 58
Arlington 59
Chula Vista 60
Austin 61
Irving 62
Bakersfield 63
Garland 64
Seattle 64
Fort Worth 66
Nashville 67
Charlotte 68
Louisville 69
Jacksonville 70
Montgomery 71
San Antonio 72
Raleigh 73
San Jose 74
Mesa 75
Kansas City 76
El Paso 77
Madison 78
Tulsa 79
Laredo 80
Lubbock 81
Irvine 82
Spokane 83
Albuquerque 84
Fremont 85
Corpus Christi 86
Oklahoma City 86
Fort Wayne 88
Lincoln 89
Henderson 90
Plano 91
Colorado Springs 92
Chesapeake 93
Wichita 94
Des Moines 95
Chandler 96
Scottsdale 97
Gilbert 98
Virginia Beach 99
Omaha 100
About Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson earned his masters in Business Administration from the Drucker School At Claremont Graduate University. He has written for 39 publications across the country and ran the media relations department at Movoto, a real estate portal based in San Francisco. He has been featured in over 500 publications as an expert in real estate and as an authority on real estate trends.

Nick's the creator of the HomeSnacks YouTube channel that now has over 260,000 subscribers and is an excellent source to learn about different parts of the country.

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