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These Are The Most Unhappy Cities In America, Ranked According To U.S. Census Data

Photo: Pixabay.com/Dariusz Domagalski

2020 has undoubtedly brought a lot of change to the lives of Americans. As such, more residents than ever are fed up with their environment and seriously considering making drastic moves to other parts of the country.

US census data analyzed the residents of 1,000 cities and towns, taking into accounting median income, crime, commute, and changes in population. After analyzing the data, the following is a ranking of the most miserable cities in America.

49. Cleveland, Ohio

Photo: flickr.com/Xiaofan Luo

Forbes once declared Cleveland as the most miserable city in the entire United States. Keeping this in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that locals have nicknamed Cleveland “the mistake by the lake.”

However, there’s some valid points of criticism that the denizens should be outraged with. Over one third of the population lives in poverty, despite that face that a recent study found that half of those in poverty had jobs.

48. Compton, California

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Compton isn’t the most pleasant place to live or raise a family for pretty obvious reasons. For starters, just under half of the city’s population is unemployed, while nearly a quarter lives below the poverty line.

That being said, while Compton still has its fair share of issues, it’s far less dangerous than it was in the past. As evidence, there were a whopping eighty seven murders in 1991, but by 2014, there were only seven murders.

47. Huntsville, Texas

Photo: shutterstock.com/ W. Scott McGill

There’s a bit of a dark cloud over Huntsville, as every single execution in Texas is carried out at the city penitentiary. The Department of Criminal Justice is the city’s biggest employer, with almost 7,000 employees.

Even with such large, demanding infrastructure in place right in town, the unemployment rate among denizens is still drastically low. According to census data, about 35% of the population lives in poverty.

46. Trenton, New Jersey

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Once upon a time, Trenton thrived as an industrial city. One of its past phrases was “Trenton makes, the world takes”, which can still be read in bold letters across the bridge leading into New Jersey’s capital.

Unfortunately, things have clearly changed for the worse as production has dramatically decreased. These days, the once industrious city has some serious, widespread problems with gang and gun violence.

45. Newark, New Jersey

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Like Flint, Michigan, the people of Newark have had issues with tainted water due to lead poisoning for years. Despite being so close to New York City, Newark doesn’t get the same attention or special treatment as its more glamourous neighbor.

On top of everything, the city has struggled with racial issues, which in turn have led to excessive riots and violence. Additionally, nearly 30% of Newark’s 282,000 residents live below the poverty line.

44. Passaic, New Jersey

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Passaic’s major issue is that it doesn’t look after its most vulnerable the way it should. There have been reports that the schools provide minimal to no sex education, and many young people also turn to drugs and violence

Despite having a rich history that dates all the way to 1679, the people living in the area struggle just to get by day to day. Approximately one-third of the city’s population lives below the poverty line.

43. Miami Gardens, Florida

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Only a handful of years ago, Miami Gardens earned the unenviable title of “stop and frisk capital of America.” This was because an estimated 57,000 people were frisked over the course of just five years.

Though the city has improved to a degree on that front, people continue to struggle with the city’s extremely high cost of living. Even water is expensive, as it’s sourced from a plant owned by another city.

42. Hammond, Indiana

Photo: flickr.com/Eric Allix Rogers

Environmental damage is an issue catching up with a number of US cities, Hammond included. Citizens have started having problems with air and water pollution as well as lead contamination, mainly due to the industrial nature of the town.

As a result, people have moved onto greener pastures (literally), and the total population has decreased by over 6% in the past decade. Of those remaining in the Indiana city, over 20% live in poverty.

41. Palmdale, California

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A commuter city, people living in Palmdale spend an exorbinant amount of time in their cars – the average person has a drive time of 42 minutes just to get to work. For many, that’s a lot of time and money lost going back and forth between locations.

Perhaps because citizens must go so far away from home to find work, nearly 20% of the 156,667 residents are living in poverty. In turn, Palmdale was once labeled “the foreclosure capital of California.”

40. Harlingen, Texas

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This Texas city has a ton of pressure on its shoulders to help out the 2,000 immigrants who were released back in 2019. But unfortunately, in many ways Harlington struggles to take care of its own people, let alone others.

Of the 65,000 residents, just 56% are employed, while approximately 30% live their lives in poverty. The climate itself is one of the most brutal in the country, suffering extremely hot temperatures and very little rainfall.

39. Plainfield, New Jersey

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Plainfield, NJ has historically struggled with violent crime, but in recent years it’s cleaned up its act and become a safer place to live. However, that doesn’t mean that the community is free of issues altogether.

According to recent census data, one fifth of the population lives in poverty, and 33% don’t have health insurance. This is not aided by the fact that the average commute time for residents clocks in at over 30 minutes.

38. Bell Gardens, California

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Much to resident’s chagrin, the vast majority of Bell Gardens tax revenue is dependant on a sole casino. For instance, back in 2002, the casino provided the city with more than half of the tax revenue for the year.

Even so, the biggest issue plaguing the city at the moment is overpopulation. Without the infrastructure to support the population growth, nearly one third of the population lives below the poverty line.

37. Warren, Ohio

Photo: flickr.com/Jack Pearce

Warren, Ohio’s GM operations once helped the city thrive, but when the plant closed in the 1990s, it triggered a downward spiral. It goes without saying that major job losses came with the closure, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Warren’s population has decreased by a whopping 7.7% in the past decade. There’s good reason for that – it currently has the second-highest rate of people struggling to get enough food in the entire country.

36. Union City, New Jersey

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Union City is one of the most densely populated areas in the entire country, as 68,500 residents are packed into just over one square mile. But, despite the number of people living in such proximity, the city seems to be lacking in resources.

23% of the population lives in poverty, which is not aided by New Jersey’s overall high cost of living. Although you’d think there’d be plenty of employment opportunities in the area, the average commute time is over 30 minutes.

35. El Monte, California

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For years, El Monte depended on auto dealerships to keep afloat. However, with three of the largest dealerships shuttering its doors, the town has recently faced some serious struggles, despite its picturesque surroundings.

Since the dealerships dissolved, over one fifth of the population lives in poverty. People have had to go elsewhere to find jobs, as the average commute for workers living in El Monte is 30 minutes or more.

34. Albany, Georgia

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Unfortunately, Mother Nature has not taken pity on the city of Albany. Both Hurricane Irma and a tornado have devastated Albany in just a few short years, resulting in millions of dollars in damage and innumerable lost crops.

Even before the natural disasters, the city had a big issue with poverty and crime, which has only grown worse with recent events. Sadly, one third of the population lives in poverty and struggles just to afford basic necessities.

33. Camden, New Jersey

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Though New Jersey is one of the wealthiest states in America, the average household income in Camden is south of $30,000 per year. Like a lot of cities on this list, over one-third of Camden residents live in poverty.

In addition, Camden has long beem considered one of the most dangerous cities in the country. While the crime rate is improving, the bad reputation is still all too real and quickly drives perspective residents elsewhere

32. Pine Bluff, Arkansas

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Pine Bluff has faced some real tragedy as of late – in only one year, it lost more than 3,000 manufacturing jobs. Subsquently, the total population has dropped by an astounding 14% over the past decade.

To add insult to injury, Pine Bluff was completely flooded by the Arkansas River a couple years later. The disaster left tons of damage in its wake, and the issues with the local economy have made rebuilding a difficult

31. Mansfield, Ohio

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Mansfield once thrived thanks to industrial jobs, but those jobs disappeared and the city suffered. In particular, the closure of the nearby GM factory forced many of the city’s residents suddenly out of work.

These unexpected, negative changes have in turn taken a big toll on the people of the Ohio community. For instance, violent crimes have risen by 37% since 2012, making the area a lot less safe for families to settle down.

30. Fort Pierce, Florida

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Over 36% of Fort Pierce’s 46,000 residents live in poverty. Due to ocean erosion, the city has to add back the sand to its beaches every few years. In the past, the economy was based on citrus farming, but changes to trade deals basically wiped out Fort Pierce’s main source of income.

Nature itself seems to have something against Fort Pierce, as well. Due to ocean erosion, the city has had to bring in and add sand from elsewhere to its beaches every few years just to keep the city in tact.

29. Montebello, California

Photo: shutterstock.com/Philip Pilosian

Monetbello has quite a few factors going against it on paper. The average work commute is 33 minutes, nearly 20% of residents don’t have health insurance to rely on, and 14% of citizens live in poverty.

Perhaps the biggest issue plaguing the area, however, is that of affordable housing. Most first-time homebuyers find it difficult to buy in Montebello, which means that newcomers largely avoid the area.

28. Pasadena, Texas

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Pasadena has a dark and nefarious racial history behind it, as it was once home to the headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan, racial issues remain in Pasadena. Even today, the city is very clearly divided.

Most Latino residents reside in the northern part of town, while the southern end is primarily composed of white citizens. Race relations aside, Pasadena is mainly working-class and is situated near chemical plants.

27. Shreveport, Louisiana

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It seems that all cities in Louisiana are at the mercy of the weather, unfortunately. Shreveport is no exception, as it suffered from massive floods from the Red River recently that have devastated the area.

Not only that, but the murder rate doubled around the time that the floods started to impact the city. In recent years, there have also been issues with other crimes, leaving residents feeling unsafe.

26. Hallandale, Florida

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While the rest of Florida has its fair share of issues, this city in particular is infamous for its debauchery. Locals of Hallandale have nicknamed it “Hound-ale Beach,” thanks to the large number of strip clubs in town.

However, the problems in the community extend far beyond a few risque establishments. 20% of Hallendale residents live in poverty, and almost 30% of residents don’t have any health insurance in case of emergency.

25. Youngstown, Ohio

Photo: flickr.com/Jack Pearce

Youngstown was once the third-biggest steel producer in the country, but the factory citizens relied on started to downsize. Like many of the other communities listed here, job losses piled up and the city trended downward.

Despite the fact that many have lost their jobs in the industrial sector, the scars of the cities past continue to impact the people living there today. Recently, Youngstown had the worst air pollution in the entire state.

24. North Miami Beach, Florida

Photo: flickr.com/Phillip Pessar

Sadly, part of the issues North Miami Beach faces are due to poor management from selfish local officials. In recent years, two previous mayors of the city have faced criminal charges for their spending.

The citizens they were supposed to ethically govern have issues of their own, with 20% living in poverty. Also, nearly one-third of the people don’t have access to healthcare, and the average commute time is 31 minutes.

23. Reading, Pennsylvania

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Similar to several cities on this list, Reading has suffered due to factories shutting down and manufacturing jobs moving abroad. As a result, it was named the poorest city in the country at one point.

These days, things are a bit better, but that’s not saying a whole lot. 36% of the population still lives in poverty, and almost half of the households rely on food stamps just to put dinner on the table.

22. Danville, Virginia

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Danville, VA was once a rather wealthy town, but that quickly changed when its textile and tobacco mills began to shut down. As a result, the population has decreased by over 5% in the past eight years.

However, not everything is doom and gloom in Danville thanks to citizens determined to turn the town around. They’re attempting a comeback by setting up solar farms and finding new uses for the abandoned warehouses.

21. Hemet, California

Photo: flickr.com/Ken Lund

Unlike many of the most undesirable cities Hemet’s population has actually grown significantly in the past decade. But so too has poverty and crime, with nearly a quarter of the population struggling to make ends meet.

The crime rates are truly astounding considering the modest population. In 2016 alone, more than 600 cars were stolen, there were 170 reported robberies, and the police responded to nearly 400 aggravated assaults.

20. Brownsville, Texas

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A border town, Brownsville is one of the most patrolled cities in the country for illegal immigrant crossings. With a handful of arrests happening each day, constant authoritative presence makes it a tense place to live.

Naturally, this makes it hard to sell property in the area, as most people would prefer a more relaxed environment. Of the people that do reside in Brownsville despite the drawbacks, about 31% live in poverty.

19. Lynwood, California

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Lynwood was once a lively and thriving town, but then Interstate 105 was built right through the center of the community. This construction resulted in loads of residents being forced to relocate elsewhere.

The people that kept Lynwood alive were literally forced out of the area, as numerous homes and businesses were demolished to make way for the freeway. Today, the city is just a shadow of what it once was.

18. West New York, New Jersey

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Don’t be fooled – West New York does not have the glitz, glamour, and romance of New York City. The city of West New York suffers from major trash and parking issues, making life difficult for the residents.

Despite being just across the Hudson River from Hell’s Kitchen, the average commute time for residents is 37 minutes. Add in a poverty rate of 22% among residents, and you’ve got a recipe for misery.

17. Saginaw, Michigan

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GM has ravaged plenty of cities across the United States, but Michigan was perhaps the state worst hit by the closures. When the auto-company closed a factory in Saginaw, a staggering 25,000 people lost their jobs.

Since 2010, the population has decreased by 6% due in large part to the dramatic loss of jobs. The economic downfall has reached far beyond people’s wallets, and 30 shootings were reported in Saginaw in 2018.

16. Jackson, Mississippi

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This city is certainly not the friendliest to its denizens. Recently, Jackson threatened to cut off the water supply for 20,000 of its people because of a cumulative $45 million worth of past-due bills.

For a variety of reasons, the city has lost more than 5% of its population since 2010. Nearly 30% of the residents who chose to remain in the area live in poverty – which is likely why those water bills stacked so high.

15. Anderson, Indiana

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GM once had 24 factories in Anderson that employed a large chunk of the city’s population. When the factories closed, 23,000 people lost their jobs and many left town, in a story similar to other industrious areas across the country.

As a result, Anderson was given nearly $3 million to demolish 100 abandoned homes around town. Unable to bring in new residents due to a lack of opportunity, the town just couldn’t attract anyone to fill in the spaces left behind.

14. Macon-Bibb County, Georgia

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Macon-Bibb County has lost almost 2% of its population in the past eight years alone. While 56% of the population of the Georgia community is gainfully employed, another 26% live in poverty and struggle day-to-day.

Similar to Anderson, vacant property is a major issue, with approximately 3,700 unoccupied buildings littering Macon-Bibb. Naturally, the vacancies don’t draw in many newcomers, which further damages the struggling area.

13. Lancaster, California

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Lancaster is a desert town with a total population of approximately 160,000. Although over half of the residents work, 23% live in poverty, certainly due in part to the harsh but beautiful environment in which it’s situated.

Unfortunately, not everything about this place is as beautiful as its surroundings. Unfortunately, the city has had issues with aggressive Neo-Nazis as well as rampant methamphetamine addiction over the years.

12. San Bernardino, California

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Nearly 65,000 of the 216,000 residents live in poverty. Home to the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, San Bernardino is in the midst of a recession that has resulted in a low employment rate.

To make matters worse, San Bernardino is the home to the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, In turn, there’s a significant amount of crime in the area that the authorities and residents alike struggle to deal with.

11. Cicero, Illinois

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Back in the day, Cicero, Illinois had ties to Al Capone and his notorious gang. Unfortunately, the community still faces gang issues, decades since the famous gangster first passed through its streets.

In an effort to deter gang activity, the city once voted to make gang members leave town within 60 days or face a daily $500 fine thereafter. Even after that desperate measure, there still continue to be issues with crime.

10. Port Arthur, Texas

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Port Arthur is another city at the mercy of Mother Nature, having suffered through three severe hurricanes since 2005. Most recently Hurricane Harvey created $1.3 billion in commercial and property damage.

Local government worries that if people keep leaving at the rate they are currently, Port Arthur will fall below 50,000 residents. This would then make the town ineligible for federal grants, which they are in desperate need of in order to rebuild.

9. Detroit, Michigan

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Decades ago, approximately 600,000 residents left Detroit due to the collapse of the manufacturing industry. The city is still suffering today, as the population has declined by 6% since 2010 and it has more than 43,000 abandoned buildings.

Because of how much Detroit has declined over the past several decades, it’s become one of the most dangerous cities in the country. This drives away valuable tourism as well as potential permanent residents.

8. St. Louis, Missouri

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Between 2010 and 2018, St. Louis lost 5% of its population. Despite being one of the biggest cities in the American Midwest, it seems that people just aren’t especially eager to plant roots in the area.

Perhaps the reason for the lack of enthusiasm has to do with the city’s ongoing struggles with both crime and gun violence, which go hand-in-hand. For context, murders in St. Louis increased by 33% from 2014 to 2015.

7. Huntington, West Virginia

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Huntington has, understandably, lost 6% of its residents since 2010. Today, West Virginia is at the center of an opioid crisis, and the city of Huntington has been called by some “America’s overdose capital.”

Aside from drug use, the overall health and wellbeing of the population is also a major issue in Huntington. At one point, it was given the title of “unhealthiest city in America”, due in large part to being a food desert.

6. North Miami, Florida

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Located right on the water, North Miami has an issue with flooding, mainly thanks to high tides. As much as living right on the water appeals to people, doing so causes some serious issues make it a risky life choice.

Experts predict that the 2,780 septic tanks in the city will soon stop functioning correctly due to the high tides. And thanks to the constant threat of ocean erosion, more issues are sure to spring up in years to come.

5. Paterson, New Jersey

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The Great Falls of Paterson, which was used to power the factories in the area, flooded the city after Hurricane Irene. After the flooding, there were about 1,250 abandoned homes devastated by the event.

Though it’s been ten years since the disaster occurred, the repercussions continue to haunt the people of Paterson today. Over the course of five years, tax revenue fell by nearly 40%, making the rebuilding effort an arduous endeavor.

4. Huntington Park, California

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Known as an east entry point for immigrants, Huntington Park’s population is 97% Latino. Most of the immigrants are illegal, which in turn means political engagement is low and police presence is high.

The sky-high poverty rate makes it difficult to purchase and sell real estate in the Huntington Park area. Because of this, it’s been difficult to build up the area and make it a more pleasant place for it citizens to live.

3. New Brunswick, New Jersey

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There are 56,000 citizens in New Brunswick, due in large part to its proximity to Rutgers University. Even so, barely over 50% of people residing in the city work, and over one-third live in poverty.

One of the main problems that the city struggles with is crime, as the rate of assault with guns rose 64% in 2017. This is bad news, both for the people that call this place home and for the prospective students that drive the local economy.

2. Flint, Michigan

Photo: flickr.com/Michigan Municipal League

Stealing the spotlight from Newark, Flint has a much bigger water crisis. Over the years the city has made national news as the citizens have struggled to find clean drinking water that won’t detriment their health.

On top of the water issues, the city also has an opioid crisis, a high rate of violence and approximately 20,000 abandoned buildings. It’s also the most impoverished city on this list with a 41% poverty rate.

1. Gary, Indiana

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Gary was, at one point, the murder capital of the United States as well as the drug capital of the country. Lack of jobs continues to plague the residents, making this one of the most miserable towns to call home.

Had enough of being miserable and hearing about all of the problems that plague our communities? Good, because the following are the happiest cities and towns in the country, also according to US census data!

50. Arlington, Texas

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About 20 miles west of Dallas, Arlington is home to the University of Texas at Arlington. The college fuels the local economy, making Arlington an excellent environment for students and residents alike.

There are lots of hiking trails throughout nearby River Legacy Parks. Arlington also has the River Legacy Living Science Center, with aquariums, terrariums, and interactive exhibits for visitors to enjoy.

49. El Paso, Texas

Photo: shutterstock.com/Joseph Sohm

Located near the Franklin Mountains, El Paso is surrounded by four Texas State Parks, making it one of the most beautiful places in the state. It borders Mexico on the Rio Grande and also shares a border with New Mexico.

In addition to looking good, El Paso’s close proximity to the US-Mexico border makes it a cultural hot spot. Good food, good music, and a diverse population makes this western Texas haven an appealing place to settle down.

48. Aurora, Colorado

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Just nine miles away from the capital city of Denver, Aurora is Colorado’s third biggest city. It straddles three neighboring counties, and it proud to be one of the safest large cities in the United States.

Being so close to Denver, residents get to enjoy the resources and amenities of the capital just a short drive away. At the same time, those living in Aurora get to enjoy more of a quiet, neighborhood feel than they would otherwise.

47. Garland, Texas

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The sleepy city of Garland is just under 20 miles from hustle and bustle of Dallas. However, it does boast the Firewheel Town Center, which includes more than 100 shops and restaurants to attract locals and out-of-towners.

Access to downtown Dallas is easy thanks to public transit, making commute times manageable for those that want to live somewhere a bit quieter than Dallas. In addition, Garland houses a few historic landmarks.

46. Boise, Idaho

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Boise is not only the capital of Idaho, but it also has the biggest population of any city in the state. It lends its name to both the neighboring Boise River and Boise State University situated downtown.

Boise has a rich local culture, with plenty of small businesses populating the city. In addition, Boise serves as a regional hub for jazz and indie musicians, making the city one of the hippest places to hang out in the area.

45. Port St. Lucie, Florida

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Port St. Lucie is situated on the east coast of Florida, approximately 50 miles to the north of West Palm Beach. Many people choose to retire in Port St, Lucie because of its warm climate and proximity to the ocean.

The city boasts some of the outstanding natural resources that make Florida so beautiful. The waterways of the North Fork St. Lucie Aquatic Preserve are home to manatees, river otters, egrets, and alligators.

44. Peoria, Arizona

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A large suburb of Phoenix, Peoria is conveniently close to both downtown Phoenix and the airport. For this reason, among others, people attached Phoenix for work or otherwise clamour to settle down in the area.

Peoria is home to Lake Pleasant Regional Park, which includes 23,000 acres of land and multiple marinas. So long as you can withstand the heat, this Arizona city is one of the most desirable places to live in the country

43. Burlington, Vermont

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Less than 50 miles from the Canadian border, Burlington is situated in scenic northwest Vermont. The small town experiences vibrant diverse seasons and is the proud home to the University of Vermont.

Interestingly, Burlington had the unique distinction of being the least populated city to also be the most populated city in its state. So, if you’re looking for a capital city that doesn’t feel overcrowded, this may be the place for you.

42. Fort Worth, Texas

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According to Fort Worth’s city website, it has nearly one hundred attractions situated within a 10-mile radius of downtown. Knowing this, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that the city gets over nine million annual tourists.

Fort Worth has more to it than some flashy tourist attractions, though. It is statistically the youngest city in Texas, with the average citizen being just 31 years old, making it a vibrant and exciting place to be.

41. Denver, Colorado

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As the capital of Colorado, the “Mile High City” has a lot going for it. What many out-of-towners don’t realize is that the city enjoys good weather year-round, getting about 300 sunny days per year.

There’s plenty nearby for Denver citizens to enjoy – as mentioned earlier, Denver is in close proximity to Aurora. It also has easy access to several popular hikes and ski resorts just outside the city limits.

40. Garden Grove, California

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Garden Grove is part of Orange County and is just over 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, making it a convenient place to settle down. With close proximity to State Route 22, the freeway makes it easy to get to Orange County.

Garden Grove isn’t just an opportune spot for commuters looking to get a bit of separation from LA. It also hosts the annual Strawberry Festival, which is one of the largest community festivals in the western United States.

39. Tempe, Arizona

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Tempe, like Peoria, is another city that is part of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. Surrounded by a beautiful desert, close to a convenient airport, and stacked with all of the amenities of Phoenix, there’s plenty to love.

Tempe isn’t entirely reliant on Phoenix for its curb appeal, though. The city is home to Arizona State University, and the Tempe Center for the Arts hosts concerts, dance, and comedy shows for residents to enjoy.

38. Billings, Montana

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Though this is a relatively small town compared to a lot of cities on this list, Billings is still the largest city in all of Montana. In fairness, most people scouting out Montana aren’t exactly seeking a jet-set lifestyle.

Originally a railroad town, Billings is located right alongside picturesque the Yellowstone River. Avoiding much of the damage from the 2008 recession and housing bust, the city has grown throughout the past two decades at a healthy rate.

37. Oakland, California

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Everyone knows that San Francisco has its fair share of problems. In order to avoid some of the issues while still being in close proximity to the city, people are increasingly choosing to live in Oakland.

Technically, Oakland is still a part of the Bay Area, just across the bay from San Francisco. Most residents commute across the bridge, as the cost of living significantly is lower and more sustainable in Oakland.

36. Lincoln, Nebraska

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Lincoln is the capital of Nebraska, making it one of the most important financial and cultural hubs in the midwest. It is also a refugee-friendly city, providing a more diverse population than one might normally find in the midwest.

Lincoln is home to the University of Nebraska flagship, which is the third-largest employer in the entire state. The college boasts a notable collection of American art and a sculpture garden on campus.

35. Omaha, Nebraska

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Another city with its roots in Nebraska, Omaha is actually larger than Lincoln and is the most populated city in the state. Home to four Fortune 500 companies, the city has a thriving economy that provides its citizens with job security.

In fact, Omaha has been a hub for inventors and entrepreneurs for the past century. Some things to come out of the city include Duncan Hines cake mix, the first ski lift, the TV dinner, and the very first hair curlers.

34. Oceanside, California

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Given the name, it really shouldn’t surprise you that Oceanside is a coastal town that thrives on the sea. It has over 3 miles of pristine beach, a 1,000 boat slip harbor, and is a popular spot among surfers.

It sits in the north part of San Diego County and is the third-largest city in the region. Whether you’re just in town to enjoy the shore or looking for something more permanent, it’s hard not to fall in love with everything Oceanside has to offer.

33. Chandler, Arizona

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Approximately 30 minutes southeast of Phoenix, Chandler is a suburb that many settle in after moving away from the city center. With access to airports, freeways, and railways, it’s a hassle-free hub to base oneself out of.

However, the many of the people that call Chandler home aren’t especially eager to get out of town. Despite its suburban location, Chandler still has a bustling downtown area and was once lister one of the “100 Best Communities for Young People”.

32. Santa Clarita, California

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Santa Clarita is located just under one hour north of the city of Los Angeles. However, while it’s the third-largest city in Los Angeles County, it retains a neighborhood feel and doesn’t feel swarmed by people.

Even so, the city has some major attractions that bring in plenty of visitors and plenty of extra revenue. Santa Clarita is home to both Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor amusement parks.

31. Irving, Texas

Photo: shutterstock.com/Timothy Milan Kuret

Just 30 minutes from Fort Worth and only 20 minutes from Dallas, Irving is one of the most desirable areas to live in the metroplex. Named after author Washington Irving, the city is home to a number of Fortune 500 companies.

In addition, Irving was the location of the Dallas Cowboy’s football stadium for over three decades, before the construction of AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Irving also has a lot of great art exhibits and museums dotted throughout the town.

30. Des Moines, Iowa

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Des Moines is the capital of Iowa and also happens to be the largest city in the state. However, if there’s something that the city doesn’t have to offer, it’s just a two-hour drive from Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

Many people are attracted to Des Moines for work, as it is the third-largest major insurance center in the entire world. Principal Financial Group, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the Merideth Group all call this unassuming little city home.

29. Honolulu, Hawaii

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Another capital and largest city in its respective state, Honolulu is located in Oahu. The area attracts loads of tourists for obvious reasons, and it is home to both the famous Waikiki Beach and historical Pearl Harbor.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a major city in the United States that has more beautiful surroundings than Honolulu. Nestled between the great blue ocean and towering tropical volcanoes, it’s most people’s idea of paradise.

28. Pembroke Pines, Florida

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Located between the bustling communities of Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Pembroke Pines is a quiet but convenient community. It is situated between two major highways, making commutes elsewhere much less painful.

Pembroke Pines borders the Everglades, which does make it vulnerable to flooding during hurricane season. Even so, the potential danger and damage haven’t stopped the population in the area from steadily increasing.

27. Chula Vista, California

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org/Roman Eugeniusz

Though you may not be familiar with Chula Vista, it is the second-largest city in San Diego County. Halfway between downtown San Diego and downtown Tijuana, it’s a culturally diverse city with elements of both communities it borders.

Chula Vista translates to “beautiful view” in Spanish, and for good reason. Enjoying the views of both the coastal mountain foothills and the San Diego Bay, this little community has some scenic views hard to replicate elsewhere.

26. Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Minneapolis is situated very close to Minnesota’s capital, Saint Paul, and in many ways steals the spotlight of its neighbor. Together, the two cities form the regionally essential Twin Cities metro area.

The northern end of the Mississippi River runs through the two cities, and both communities are known for their gorgeous parks and lakes. In addition, the city served as a launching pad for a number of influential musicians across multiple genres.

25. Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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Supposedly a tad happier than the aforementioned Des Moines, Cedar Rapids is another midwestern city to make the list. As the second-largest city in the state, it’s got a lot going on despite its location in the sleepy state of Iowa.

One of Cedar Rapids’ greatest claims to fame is its flourishing performance art scene. A number of famous actors have emerged from the city throughout the years, including Elijah Wood and Ashton Kutcher.

24. Cape Coral, Florida

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Evidently, few places in the United States make people happier than the coast of Florida. Cape Coral is located on the western coast of the state and it happens to be the largest city between Tampa and Miami.

Cape Coral has more than four hundred miles of canals, ample golf courses, and plenty of parks for enjoying outdoor activities. Although temperatures can get pretty hot, it’s otherwise an excellent place to enjoy the great outdoors.

23. Raleigh, North Carolina

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Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina, and only Charlotte surpasses it in population. It is one of the fastest-growing communities in the United States at the moment, especially among young people that want steady work and a good time.

The number of technology and scholarly institutions in and around Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham make the area known as the “Research Triangle.” Because of this, the area houses thousands of jobs in the science and technology sectors.

22. Anaheim, California

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org/ Roman Eugeniusz

Situated in Orange County and not too far south from the excitement of Los Angeles, Anaheim, California is home to Disneyland. And who wouldn’t want to live just a stone’s throw away from one of America’s favorite amusement parks?

Since Disneyland is the self-proclaimed “happiest place on earth,” it makes sense that the residents of Anaheim are happy, too. The city is also home to both professional ice hockey and baseball teams.

21. Gilbert, Arizona

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The suburbs of Phoenix evidently have some of the most satisfied homeowners in America. Having come a long way from its original distinction of “Hay Shipping Capital of the World”, there’s a lot to love about Gilbert.

While Gilbert is four hours away from the Grand Canyon, the immediate area offers plenty of outdoor activities, art exhibits, and restaurants. It’s also been home to talents ranging from NFL stars to NASA astronauts.

20. Charleston, South Carolina

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Charleston is about two hours from the state capital of Columbia by car and by far one of the most desirable locations in South Carolina. Since the 18th century, it’s been one of the most influential cities in the southern US.

This city is full of heavily-visited beach areas, such as Seabrook Island. The city also has a beautiful French Quarter and a bustling Battery district, which all bring in plenty of tourists each year.

19. Saint Paul, Minnesota

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Mentioned earlier on in our list and the smaller of the Twin Cities, Saint Paul is about 12 miles from Minneapolis. It is home to the University of Minnesota Saint Paul campus and has more than 300,000 residents.

Though it’s smaller than its neighbor, that doesn’t mean that the residents are any less satisfied with their home. Over 1.5 million people are gainfully employed in the greater metro area, making Saint Paul a profitable place to settle down.

18. San Diego, California

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Naturally, San Diego is the biggest city in San Diego County, which has already appeared on our list a number of times. It is situated just over 100 miles south of Los Angeles and is very close to the border town of Tijuana, Mexico.

Some of the most popular areas in San Diego are the Gaslamp District, Balboa Park, and Coronado Beach. It is also home to two major commercial airports as well as the University of California San Diego.

17. Glendale, California

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Just north of downtown Los Angeles, Glendale sits comfortably between Burbank and Pasadena. With a pleasant climate and an incredibly low crime rate, it’s one of the most desirable mid-sized cities to live in in the country.

The nearby Verdugo Mountains have beautifully maintained equestrian routes and hilltop vistas. To the northeast, trails run through Deukmejian Wilderness Park in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

16. Pearl City, Hawaii

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As you might suspect, Pearl City’s main attraction is the infamous Pearl Harbor. However, if you can get past the dark past of the area, this area is actually a beloved community according to the residents nearby.

Pearl City is a part of the already highly sought-after city of Honolulu, located on the island of Oahu. Though it’s a small town to be called a “city” and has only five square miles of land, it makes for a tight-knit community.

15. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

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Sioux Falls is the largest city in the state of South Dakota (not that there’s much competition in that department). It is located around three hours from Pierre, the capital, and five hours from Mount Rushmore.

The city sits up against the Big Sioux River, which provides the beautiful waterfalls the city is named after. As an added bonus, Sioux Falls is consistently listed among the healthiest cities in the United States.

14. Austin, Texas

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While Austin is situated closest to San Antonio, this city is also less than three hours from both Dallas and Houston. Aside from being the capital of Texas, it’s one of the fastest-growing cities thanks to its “hip” reputation.

Over the years, it has earned the nickname of the “Live Music Capital of the World”, and the arts scene continues to grow with each passing year. Austin is also home to the University of Texas Austin campus.

13. Santa Rosa, California

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Santa Rosa is a major part of California’s wine country, yet it is still less than 100 miles from both Sacramento and San Francisco. Between sprawling vineyards and along the Redwood Coast, it’s one of the most beautiful areas in the state.

Of course, one of the biggest attractions the city has is its many wineries. Outside of alcohol production, the city is also home to the Charles M. Schulz Museum, named after the “Peanuts” comic author.

12. Overland Park, Kansas

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Witchita is the only city larger than Overland Park in the state of Kansas. And, conveniently enough for those anxious to avoid the sprawling prairies, the two thriving cities are just a twenty-minute car drive away from one another.

Overland Park has an Arboretum and Botanical Garden to keep its residents entertained. It is also home to several profitable corporations, most notably Sprint, which bring in plenty of jobs to the area.

11. Bismarck, North Dakota

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Bismarck is the state capital and second biggest city (after Fargo) in all of North Dakota. According to a 2019 issue of Forbes, it was among the top-ten fastest-growing small cities in the entire country.

Some attractions in the area include the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum and the Dakota Zoo. It also houses a rebuilt historic village, once occupied by the Mandan tribe native to the area.

10. San Francisco, California

Photo: flickr.com/Jim Trodel

San Francisco is far from perfect in many regards, but people still clamor to call it their home. While the cost of living is sky-high, residents are still happier there than they are in most other cities.

One of the most well-known cities in the country, San Francisco is home to the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, the Painted Lady’s Houses, and Alcatraz Island. Not to mention some of the best sourdough bread around!

9. Scottsdale, Arizona

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Yet another Phoenix suburb has made its way onto this list, but that shouldn’t come as too much of a shock at this point. Scottsdale is home to a lot of shopping and restaurants in its Old Town sector.

Scottsdale is also well known for its many golf courses, much to the pleasure of potential residents seeking leisure. It’s also home to a number of festivals, museums, art galleries, and even a few historic properties.

8. San Jose, California

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Situated in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose is the biggest city in the southern part of the Bay Area. It is home to more than 6,600 headquarters, primarily for tech companies hoping to make it big.

Innovative tech giants such as Apple, Facebook, and Google are based near San Jose, making it an ideal town to commute out of. Though the cost of living is quite high, the affluent lifestyle the tech industry affords makes it a relaxed place to live.

7. Grand Prairie, Texas

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Grand Prairie another great place located between Dallas and Fort Worth. It takes less than 25 minutes to drive from both cities, making it a desirable place to be if you don’t necessarily want to call either of those cities home.

The city has an impressive historic downtown area that calls back to its wild western roots. Even so, the city hosts a rather diverse population, of which only 11% live below the national poverty line.

6. Fargo, North Dakota

Photo: flickr.com/Thomas Hawk

Not only is Fargo a happier place than Bismarck, but it’s also the biggest city in the state over the capital. It sits comfortably on the Red River, just a stone’s throw away from the Minnesota border.

Fargo started as a frontier settlement, and its historic downtown is still home to the Fargo Theatre, which is nearly 100 years old. It is also the home of North Dakota State University, making it a hub for ambitious students.

5. Huntington Beach, California

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“Surf City USA,” as Huntington Beach is sometimes referred to, has ten gorgeous miles of coastline in Orange County. Knowing this, it’s no wonder it’s one of the places Americans are happiest to call home.

The famous Pacific Coast Highway runs right through town, making it even more of a charming, scenic spot to set down roots. It is also home to The International Surfing Museum, which makes sense considering how many are drawn to the area.

4. Fremont, California

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While it is a lesser-known city than San Francisco and San Jose, Fremont is still the fourth most populated city in the Bay Area. Remaining under the radar has allowed the area to retain some of the charm nearby larger cities lack.

Located in the East Bay, it has lots of art galleries, farmers markets, and historic sites for visitors and residents to take advantage of. There are also a number of nature preserves, parks, and wildlife refuges in the area.

3. Madison, Wisconsin

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Madison is near five lakes and is well known for its fantastic winter weather. While it may be a bit much for some people to handle, the cold is a fair price to pay considering everything else this city has to offer.

Some of Madison’s major attractions include the Capitol building and the University of Wisconsin campus. The city’s economy has been undergoing a boom, thanks to an influx of tech jobs recently coming in.

2. Irvine, California

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Irvine is a master-planned community in Orange County. It has always been known as one of the safest cities in the country, which is more than enough to attract many folks simply seeking out a safe community.

The city has more than 16,000 acres of parks and open space at its disposal. For this reason, a number of corporations and higher learning institutes have landed in Irvine, making a place full of opportunity for many.

1. Plano, Texas

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Plano started off as a small and quiet farming community, and it may seem like an unlikely place to be the happiest in America. However, it is now home to over 280,000 residents, several Fortune 1000 companies, and more than 10,000 businesses total.

Plano is the ninth-largest city in Texas and the fourth-largest in the Dallas Fort Worth region. Yet, in the 2000s, it had both the highest median income and the lowest crime rate among US cities with populations surpassing 250,000.