If you’re reading this, chances are, you live in the United States. And if you’re reading this, you’re probably on your computer or cell phone or tablet or whatever other cool device has come out in the last five minutes.
We’re in a country that, all over the world, is seen as one of the most fortunate and darn near magical, when it comes to realizing your dreams and becoming what you want. Many of us are prosperous, we are hard-working, we have all the gadgets and things we could desire. But at the same time, our country has a serious deficit.
A happiness deficit.
Consistently, the U.S. is outranked by countries like Norway, Denmark, and Belize when it comes to measuring how happy residents are. Of course, in different studies, the criteria range widely—but the point is, no matter the numbers, the U.S. is generally not among the “winners.” Which, yes, can be difficult for a country all about winning.
Of course, it can’t be all bad. In fact, in some places in the U.S., it’s pretty darn great. So if you’ve been brooding over the Happiest Countries in the World lists lately, fancying a move to someplace like Switzerland, don’t pack your bags just yet. In this map, we’ll show you the happiest places in each state—and that is a much shorter commute than heading off to the Alps. Plus, you won’t have to go through customs, and everyone knows that is a recipe for unhappiness.
I know what you’re thinking—how did you guys create this map? Did you just pull city names from a hat, or pick ones you thought sounded nice? As a matter of fact, we didn’t. We happily selected some very specific criteria to wheedle down our list of cities to one per state.
Here’s what we thought would most contribute to happiness (that we could measure, at any rate):
With these happy criteria (gathered from the 2010-2014 American Community Survey), we set about gathering data for over 7,300 places in the U.S. with populations of 2,000 people or more.
We then compared and ranked each place to every other place in the same state on each of the seven criteria with a score of one being the happiest. (Any ties were given to the larger place).
Next, we averaged the seven rankings into a Happiness Index for each place. The place with the lowest overall Index was crowned the Happiest Place in the state.
Now, since we can’t very well go over how and why each of our fifty cities is so darn happy, we’ll take a closer look at a few of the cities with the best overall happiness rankings. Number one on the docket, Frontenac, Missouri.
If you say that you guessed Frontenac, Missouri would be ranked among the happiest places, not just in the state, but as it turns out, in the country, I’m calling your bluff. This city of just 3,512 residents might not have been on your radar—until now. So why are residents here so happy? Well, for starters, they have an average commute shorter than most of us take to eat a bag of chips—just 17 minutes. They’re also probably feeling pretty secure. What I mean is, residents here are some of the most insured, married, and employed folks in the U.S.
So smile—you live in Frontenac.
What is it about small cities in rural areas that makes them so happy? Well, in this case, a lot of it comes down to security. Residents in Oak Hill ranked as the 78th most married (out of over 7,500, mind) and the 38th lowest when it comes to poverty.
Of course a move across the pond might seem exciting, but you might be happier in Oak Hill—and it’d certainly cost you a whole lot less.
Okay, who saw this coming? Out of over 7,500 places in the country, this little guy ranked the seventh happiest overall. (Where Frontenac and Oak Hill ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively.) We certainly didn’t see it coming, not because we don’t think it’s right; but simply because, who has Montana City on their places to visit list?
Well, we certainly do now.
It’s one of the least impoverished, most employed, and houses some of the most married residents (in their own houses, of course) in the entire country. It’s like the warm blanket fresh out of the dryer of places.
Of course we could have gone on (and on, and on) about each of our fifty winners from each state, but—well, that sounds tedious for both you and us, and we’re all about keeping things happy. So happy travelling—get out there and go visit some of these places.