Do you live in one of the most miserable places in America?
According to a Harris Poll taken in October of 2016, 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 science and data.
After analyzing the largest cities, we sadly present the most miserable cities in the United States:
- Newark, New Jersey
- Miami, Florida
- San Bernardino, California
- Los Angeles, California
- Detroit, Michigan
- Chicago, Illinois
- Long Beach, California
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Oakland, California
- Richmond, Virginia
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.
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.
1. Newark, NJ
Population: 278,750People 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
Population: 416,203People 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
Population: 213,034Married: 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
Population: 3,862,210People 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
Population: 695,203Married: 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
Population: 2,716,293People 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
Population: 468,304Cost 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
Population: 440,483Married: 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
Population: 402,394Cost 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
Population: 211,063Married 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.
There You Have It
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:
- Omaha, Nebraska
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Gilbert, Arizona
- Scottsdale, Arizona
- Chandler, Arizona
- Des Moines, Iowa
- Wichita, Kansas
The Most Miserable to Happiest Cities In America
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