U.S. 10 Most Miserable Cities
2. Stockton, CA
4. New York, NY
5. Philadelphia, PA
6. Chicago, IL
7. Los Angeles, CA
8. Modesto, CA
9. Charlotte, NC
10. Providence, RI
We looked at only the 150 largest metropolitan areas, which meant a minimum population of 371,000. We ranked the cities on the six criteria above and added their ranks to establish the Misery Measure. The data used in the rankings came from Portland, Ore., researcher Bert Sperling, who last year published the second edition of “Cities Ranked & Rated,” along with Peter Sander. Economic research firm Economy.com, which is owned by Moody's, also supplied some data.
And the, ahem, winner is …
Detroit in the top spot, with its sister city Flint ranked third, is probably not a great shock. "If Detroit were a baseball team, we'd say they are mired in a slump," says Sperling. Both Detroit and Flint have suffered tremendously from the auto industry downturn. Flint's plight was immortalized in the Michael Moore movie “Roger & Me,” which chronicles Moore's attempts to meet with then-General Motors Chief Executive Roger Smith.
Crime and unemployment are closely linked, according to Sperling. Our three most miserable places bear that out (Stockton, Calif., ranks second). All three are among the eight worst cities in terms of both unemployment and violent crime.
The United States' two biggest cities both induce a ton of misery. New York was the fourth-most-miserable city by our count, while Los Angeles clocked in at sixth. The Big Apple has the longest commute times (36.2 minutes) and the highest tax rates (10.5%) in the country. As the financial capital of the world and home to write-down kings Merrill Lynch and Citigroup, New York appears poised for more misery in 2008.
The people of La-La Land have some of the best weather in the U.S. (it's ranked seventh) but scored poorly when it came to commute times, Superfund sites and taxes. And we did not even factor in air quality, where Los Angeles is the worst in the nation by far, according to Sperling.
*Misery Measures are derived at by ranking the 150 largest metropolitan areas on six criteria -- income tax, violent crime, Superfund sites, commutes, weather and unemployment – and then adding their ranks. For example, New York ranked worst (150th) for commutes, 150th for income tax, 99th for unemployment, 78th for number of Superfund sites, 105th for violent crime and 86th for weather, which add up to its Misery Measure of 668.
See Forbes.com's full slide show of most miserable cities.
An ugly surprise
The biggest surprise on the list is Charlotte, N.C., which is ranked ninth. Charlotte has undergone tremendous economic growth the past decade, while the population has soared 32%. But the current picture isn't as bright. Employment growth has not kept up with population growth, meaning unemployment rates are up more than 50% compared with 10 years ago. Charlotte scored in the bottom half of all six categories we examined and ranked 140th for violent crime.
So take heart, Detroit, you are not alone. After all, misery loves company.
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