The 25 Happiest Cities in America

Is the grass always greener?
Seems like overcrowding could be an issue.
Seems like overcrowding could be an issue. / PeterPencil/DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images

For some, happiness is a moving target. When feeling dissatisfied with one’s life, people tend to assess things like money, relationships, hobbies, and health. Others contemplate whether they’d be happier in another environment and begin to ponder moving across the state or across the country to pursue it. But can relocating really have a radical effect on your mood? And if so, is there a way to evaluate the happiest cities in America?

Recently, financial advice outlet WalletHub took a swing at an objective breakdown of external factors that might contribute to an individual’s sense of well-being and then looked at cities where those factors were strongest. The site’s “29 key indicators of happiness” included income growth rate, life expectancy, job satisfaction, weather, sports participation, and divorce rate. Essentially, cities with demonstrable metrics of activity, stable income, and community stability went to the top of the list.

The top 25:

  1. Fremont, California
  2. Overland Park, Kansas
  3. San Jose, California
  4. Madison, Wisconsin
  5. Irvine, California
  6. Honolulu, Hawaii
  7. San Francisco, California
  8. Pearl City, Hawaii
  9. Columbia, Maryland
  10. Scottsdale, Arizona
  11. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  12. Huntington Beach, California
  13. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  14. Garden Grove, California
  15. San Diego, California
  16. Fargo, North Dakota
  17. Portland, Maine
  18. Seattle, Washington
  19. Lincoln, Nebraska
  20. Bismarck, North Dakota
  21. Gilbert, Arizona
  22. Charleston, South Carolina
  23. South Burlington, Vermont
  24. Glendale, California
  25. Anaheim, California

Thanks to an abundance of amenities, well-paying jobs, life satisfaction data, and pleasant weather, California cities make up nine of the top 25 slots. So what makes the top choice, Fremont, California, such a desirable destination? Data compiled by WalletHub attributes low rates of depression, long lifespans, and roughly 80 percent of households with an income above $75,000, a number sometimes seen as a threshold for a higher quality of life. (Dampening that happiness: earthquakes. Fremont recently recorded a 3.2.)

Overland Park, Kansas, comes in second thanks to its reputed lowest poverty rate in the country, as well as one of the lowest unemployment rates; San Jose, California, ranks third for residents having an above-average life expectancy.

While lists and rankings of this stripe can be informative, it’s obviously difficult to quantify one’s chances of being happier in one city over another. Familial ties, which can’t really be assessed in any general sense, play a large role, as does one’s ability to afford the standard of living in a “happy” location. Cities like Fremont and San Jose carry real estate costs that reflect the desirability of the area, for example, and one may not find themselves delirious with happiness when faced with a ballooning mortgage payment.

According to science, a longing for relocation, or the greener-grass syndrome, may actually have an adverse effect. In creating a “hyper-want” for a new car, home, or city, people may actually get too focused on what they don’t have instead of what they do have. It’s more likely that social bonds with happy people tend to make one happy, which—at least in theory—could make any city the “happiest.”

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For the complete list ranking 182 cities, you can head to WalletHub.

[h/t WalletHub]