These Are America's Happiest Cities to Live In
Spoiler alert: Five of the top 15 spots are in California.
If you're happy and you know it, there's a good chance you're living in Fremont, California. In a new study released by WalletHub on Monday, the Bay Area city snagged the top spot for happiest U.S. city to live in. In fact, California cities took five of the top 15 spots, with San Jose coming in fifth, Santa Rosa in 10th, Irvine in 12th, and San Francisco in 13th.
The free credit score and report site looked at 31 key indicators using "positive-psychology research in order to determine which among more than 180 of the largest U.S. cities is home to the happiest people in America," the study explained.
The top 15 were rounded out by North Dakota's Bismarck in second, North Dakota's Fargo in third, Wisconsin's Madison in fourth, Vermont's South Burlington in sixth, Nebraska's Lincoln in seventh, Maryland's Columbia in eighth, Iowa's Cedar Rapids in ninth, South Dakota's Sioux Falls in 11th, Hawaii's Pearl City in 14th, and Vermont's Burlington in 15th. The full list can be seen here.
"Happiness, like many mood states, will be influenced by person and environment," Dr. Sharon Glazer of University of Baltimore's psychology department said in a statement. "Some aspects of happiness are about a person's general disposition to see the silver lining in events...and some aspects are based on context."
Accordingly, the study grouped the indicators into three main dimensions, with Fremont also topping the list for emotional and physical well-being. Meanwhile, Burlington was number one in income and employment, and Rapid City, South Dakota, was first in community and environment. This year, COVID-19 indicators were also added, with average COVID-19 deaths and cases per capita both being among the heaviest weighted factors. (Read more here on the study's methodology.)
The top cities for several specific indicators were also revealed, with South Burlington getting the highest adequate sleep rate, Seattle scoring the highest sport participation rate, Burlington with the fewest work hours, San Francisco with the highest income growth, and Fremont with the lowest separation and divorce rates. On the other end of the scale, lowest adequate sleep rate went to Detroit; lowest sports participation was in Laredo, Texas; Cheyenne, Wyoming, had the most work hours; Charleston, West Virginia, ranked for the lowest income growth; and Cleveland had the highest separation and divorce rates.
It's worth noting that just because this WalletHub study showed these rankings doesn't mean they're overarching. "The research consensus is that location is not a key driver of happiness, but the ability to live within your means and have the experiences that you value matter," University of Tulsa's Bradley Brummel said in a statement. "So, if you are struggling to afford your house, your children's school, or pay your bills, then living in a sunny location that is 'cool' will not matter very much. Living in a place that allows you to meet your values and goals is the key."
WalletHub also released a ranking of the happiest states last September, naming Hawaii in the top spot.