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20 Happiest Small Towns in America

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By TCS Staff
March 2019

Happiness is subjective but certain factors can definitely induce more happiness/endorphins than others. Like living in a small city where you have wide open spaces, beautiful views, easy commute, less pollution, and a pace that is just right for you to enjoy life. For the more practical minded of us, small cities offer more opportunity to save and enjoy a higher standard of living because things are not as expensive.

Real estate is cheaper as well and you can get more room for your money instead of a tiny apartment in a big city. It’s a matter of priorities, of course, but if you do want to get away from the madding crowd for good and settle somewhere more peaceful you can check out these cities which are highly rated for their happy denizens.

Before we get there though, here’s a quick look at how we have rated them, so you can decide for yourself if you want to enjoy the wholesome air and slower pace for yourself. Income, employment and education are some of the key factors that form the happiness quotient of a place. Other factors that seem to influence are low costs of living and home ownership rate which are directly proportional to stress. Walkability scores and a short commute to work are popular parameters too since no one really likes being stuck in traffic, right?!

These metrics were examined:

Poverty Rate – A low poverty rate is a good indicator of a healthy economy and happy residents.
Population – We have considered towns with a population of below 100,000.
Median Household Income – The median household income is a good indication of the standard of living enjoyed by the residents.
Median property value – A healthy real estate market and higher percentage of home ownership leads to financial security, asset creation and happier residents.
Education – Here we have considered the percentage of bachelor’s degree holders vis a vis the population of a place.
Employment and unemployment rate – Having a job and earning well is important to one’s well being and happiness.
Crime and safety – We all know that a low crime rate is a big attraction for any place. Here we have considered the overall crime rate per 100,000 people.

#20 STATE COLLEGE, PA

Poverty Rate – 44.8%

Population – 42,129

Median Household Income – $31,618

Median property value – $275,700

Education – 69.8% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 3.4%

Crime – 1,135 per 100K residents

State College, as the name suggests is a quintessential college town and life here revolves around the Penn State University, its largest employer. Apart from academics and sports, the small town offers other quality-of-life features like low crime rates, great healthcare facilities, affordable housing options which are surrounded by mountains and forests. Along with the scenic views, residents have shops, restaurants and museums to enjoy all year round along with the umpteen events. Most residents own their homes here, enjoy an incredibly short commute time in one of the most walkable places in America. It is no wonder that State College is also known as the Happy Valley,

#19 BLACKSBURG,VA

Poverty Rate – 44.7%

Population – 43,973

Median Household Income – $34,863

Median property value – $276,500

Education – 71.3% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 52.2%

Crime – 10 per 1,000 residents

Blacksburg boasts of all the amenities that you want in a small town – low violent crime rate, high incomes, affordable housing and as short commute time which averages at 13.9 minutes. This Virginia Tech college town also boasts of winning sports teams and an amazing theatre scene for a small town. True to many other Virginia towns, it boasts of an incredible natural beauty all around which offers its residents that perfect blend of peace, quiet and beauty that are looking for. There are many options for hiking and weekend getaways as well.

#18 EAST LANSING, MI

Poverty Rate – 44.2%

Population – 48,395

Median Household Income – $34,153

Median property value – $176,500

Education – 57.6% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 76.2%

Crime – 1764 per 100k residents

East Lansing is a happy little college town with incredibly low crime rates and a large number of happily married couples. It represents the happy, all-American dream that we strive for with a slow pace and a healthy environment to bring up a family. Stress factors like traffic and the crime rate are low as well adding to the factors of why East Lansing is one of the happiest small towns. People have good incomes and the town boasts of a high home ownership rates. There is always plenty to do, thanks to Michigan State University, the endless activities in and around town, a vibrant cultural and food scene.

#17 STILLWATER, OK

Poverty Rate – 34.3%

Population – 48,104

Median Household Income – $29,093

Median property value – $157,500

Education – 48.4% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 57.3%

Crime – 1 in 34 residents

Stillwater, true to its name, offers its residents a peaceful and idyllic life. With practically no traffic, the average commute time is only around 15 minutes. A low cost of living, and yet a healthy employment rate, it ranks high in the happiness quotient. The presence of diverse sectors like aerospace, biotechnology, agribusiness, manufacturing, publishing, and even software in close proximity offers this small-town residents lots of jobs and health incomes. endless activities offered by the nearby Oklahoma State University offers keep people busy. parks and upscale shopping in the downtown offer some urban fun while the nearby lakes offer residents plenty of recreation options and lead to low stress rates.

#16 BURLINGTON,VT

Poverty Rate – 25.1%

Population – 42,556

Median Household Income – $46,754

Median property value – $264,300

Education – 50.9% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 65.2%

Crime 1 in 30 residents

Burlington is a known as the small big town because it has all the amenities of a small town and is still surprisingly the biggest in the state. Citizens not only get to enjoy a slow pace but also fun-filled downtown activities with shopping, parks, restaurants and series of festival and events happening round the year. Options of weekend fun with a plethora of natural activities add to its being one of the happiest small towns. A short commute time of 18 minutes definitely adds to one’s peace of mind.

#15 BEDFORD,VA

Poverty Rate – 21.5%

Population – 6,543

Median Household Income – $39,701

Median property value – $145,500

Education – 23.7% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 60.6%

Crime – 3,760 per 110k residents

Bedford is known for its amazing scenery that adds to its beauty and small-town charm. Low crime rate and a short commute time of 26.9 helps residents enjoy the slow and quiet pace they want. Nearby attractions like the James River, Peaks of Otter, Smith Mountain Lake, Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway offer ample opportunities to enjoy amazing scenery and outdoor adventures. If you like apple orchards, then this is the pace to be It is also home to several wineries which attracts many wine enthusiasts to the area. a collection of shops and restaurants and farmers market makes the downtown popular. There are a number of trails that lead to impressive views for the more adventurous kind.

#14 DELRAY BEACH, FL

Poverty Rate – 17.2%

Population – 65,044

Median Household Income – $51,829

Median property value – $207,100

Education – 34.5% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 52%

Crime – 4,372 per 100k residents

Located on Florida’s southeast coast, Delray Beach is also known as Florida’s “Village by the Sea.” This small city doesn’t have a single high rise building so one can get to see the breathtaking water views without obstruction. The vibrant community has a lot of art lovers as evidenced by the presence of many public art and galleries. This beach destination is a hidden gem not just for tourists but for residents who love white sand public beaches and the slower pace of life. A combination of art, shopping, sports, culture and nightlife on a backdrop of the splendor of nature lays the foundation of perennial happiness.

#13 GLENWOOD SPRINGS, CO

Poverty Rate – 16.1%

Population – 9,806

Median Household Income – $55,241

Median property value – $327,000

Education – 32.0% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 40.5%

Crime – 4,805 per 100k residents

It is hard to stay unhappy when you have the best of nature surrounding you. Glenwood Springs is a popular among tourists and is a must-see haunt for all. The resort city is surrounded by the White River National Forest, boasts of hot springs, the Glenwood Canyon, Hanging Lake and the Glenwood Caverns. But for residents, there’s more to the place than its sheer beauty. The temperate climate and slower pace of life offers the perfect atmosphere for those who choose to live a healthy lifestyle. a booming cultural scene and countless outdoor activities combine to offer the best of both worlds to its residents who can find peace and happiness easily here than in any other place.

#12 TYBEE ISLAND, GA

Poverty Rate – 14.5%

Population – 3,068

Median Household Income – $71,007

Median property value – $434,300

Education – 48.5% have completed a bachelor’s degree

h4>Unemployment rate – 48.9%

Crime – 4,978 per 100k residents

Located near Savannah, Georgia, Tybee Island is a small city tucked away from the fast-paced city life. Most people don’t know about this barrier island which is known for its wide, sandy beaches, and most importantly for dolphins swimming offshore which can be witnessed almost daily. The island is steeped in history and showcases the Fort Screven with its 19th-century concrete gun batteries and the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum. These along with the South Beach, with a pier and pavilion, are popular haunt for locals and tourists alike. Despite these, the island hasn’t lost its small-town charm or slow pace of life which along with its natural beauty makes it one of the happiest small towns in America.

#11 BARNSTABLE TOWN, MA

Poverty Rate – 10.7%

Population – 44,498

Median Household Income – $66,864

Median property value – $345,700

Education – 37.6% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 62.9%

Crime – 17 per 1,000 residents

Barnstable Town is as idyllic and quaintly charming as its name. The residents of this town are not just happy bit also known to enjoy the second-highest social well-being after Naples area residents. Between Nantucket Sound and Cape Cod Bay, it boasts of seven idyllic villages, each of which are considered a hidden gem with their unique characteristics and charm. With a commute time of just over 20 minutes, it offers a slow pace and peaceful ambience that naturally relieves stress and makes its residents happier than other places. It offers ample opportunities for outdoor adventures, food and cultural fun as well.

#10 SHERIDAN, WY

Poverty Rate – 10.5%

Population – 17,866

>Median Household Income – $48,804

Median property value – $204,300

Education – 30.6% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 62.6%

Crime – 2,024 per 100k residents

Located halfway between Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore, Sheridan is also called the “King of Cowboy Towns.” Coal and natural gas companies are the key employers here and the town has a low unemployment as well crime rate. The main street boasts of dozens of unique stores, handful of galleries, local craft shops and restaurants and well-maintained parks. It lies in the shadows of the Bighorn Mountains offering residents plenty of options for outdoor adventures with a real western feel. More than 10 lakes and streams pave the way for many summer and winter fun. With an average commute time of just about 12 minutes, the pace cannot be more perfect for those who are looking for a slower pace of life.

#9 NAPLES, FL

Poverty Rate – 8.92%

Population – 20,980

Median Household Income – $84,830

Median property value – $770,000

Education – 54.3% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 36.3%

Crime – I,852 per 100k residents

Naples has been consistently voted as one of the happiest places to live in the U.S. over the years. Much of it has to do with its breathtaking natural beauty all complete with its pristine beaches and beautiful sunsets. With an average commute time of less than 20 minutes, its happy residents swear by its walkability, civic engagement and healthful food options. High incomes, affordable lifestyles lead to financial security while good physical health and outdoor activities add a sense of purpose of residents. Tourism is thriving as well, it boasts of amazing beaches and for being a popular beach town for dolphin-spotting.

#8 MONTEREY, CA

Poverty Rate – 8.57%

Population – 28,472

Median Household Income – $68,511

Median property value – $664,300

Education – 49.5% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 55.1%

Crime – 4,656 per 100k residents

Located on California’s rugged central coast, Monterey has been long been a destination for literary fans. Its one-time center of the sardine-packing industry, Cannery Row, has been made forever famous by novelist John Steinbeck. It also attracts a lot of visitors for the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. The spectacular scenic views are much loved by visitors and locals alike. The small close-knit community like all that nature has to offer and the slow pace of life which is colorfully interspersed with a steady stream of visitors all year round. With a mild temperate climate to cherish, what’s not to be happy about in this small nook of the paradise.

#7 DEL MAR, CA

Poverty Rate – 8.19%

Population – 4,312

Median Household Income – $108,556

Median property value – $2M

Education – 75.4% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 43.7%

Crime – 3,593 per 100k residents

Located close to San Diego, Del Mar is a quaint seaside village on the Southern California coastline. It’s vintage cottages and European charm, combined with its striking natural beauty is a big attraction for those who seek a simpler way of life. This small village-like destination has a vibrant atmosphere and attracts visitors from around the globe for its pristine beaches and the spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. It is also known for its boutique hotels and unique shops, the renowned Del Mar Racetrack and the for being the home of the San Diego County Fair. The slow pace and high median incomes make it a great place to stay. It is especially attractive to residents who want to escape the hustle and bustle of Orange County but not be too far away from the action.

#6 BOERNE, TX

Poverty Rate – 6.92%

Population – 13,066

Median Household Income – $61,259

Median property value – $225,600

Education – 38.2% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 60.3%

Crime – 23.36 per 1,000 residents

Located in the Texas Hill Country, Boerne has the fourth highest per capita income in the state and a vibrant economy. Sunshine around the year combined with a mild climate makes it a perfect playground for many outdoor activities and a variety of sports like golfing, biking, hunting, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, among others. True to the Hill country reputation, it is surrounded by wineries and breweries. The natural beauty of the place attracts visitors around the year adding a thriving tourism sector to the economy. It is also known for its eclectic food and culture scene.

#5 PORTSMOUTH, NH

Poverty Rate – 6.13%

Population – 21,458

Median Household Income – $69,664

Median property value – $361,000

Education – 57.6% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 41.4%

Crime – 1,59 per 100k residents

Portsmouth ranks high as one of the happiest small towns as much for its natural beauty as it does for its eclectic lifestyle. It is actually one of the oldest places to live in America much steeped in history and culture. It has a thriving seaport on the Piscataqua River, which brings in a lot of tourists and is popular with the locals as well. A mix of Georgian buildings and tidy Colonial-era homes offers a quaint charm. The downtown centralized Market Square is full of shops, cafes, restaurants, galleries, boutiques, and breweries with activities the year round. An amazing theatre scene adds to the happiness of its residents as well.

#4 SUGAR LAND TX

Poverty Rate – 5.15%

Population – 85,681

Median Household Income – $108,504

Median property value – $283,400

Education – 93.5% Bachelor’s degree or higher

Unemployment rate – 63.4%

Crime – 4.15 per 100K residents

Sugar Land has been voted as one of the happiest cities in Texas and it scores high in the national context as well. With an average commute time of just 28.5 minutes residents enjoy the slow pace and peaceful life they are looking for. Contrary to what most people think, this isn’t your average small town. It boasts a versatile restaurant scene and lots of activities for residents to enjoy over the weekends.

#3 WHITE ROCK, NM

Poverty Rate – 3.27%

Population – 6,083

Median Household Income – $109,412

Median property value – $272,700

Education – 61.6% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 56.2%

Crime – 100k per 1,537 residents

White Rock is the second happiest place to live in New Mexico and one of the top places to live in the country if you want to be happy and healthy. he locals of this quaint town love the fact that they don’t have to beat rush hour traffic to get to a cool job or go back to homes that the 84.6% of them own. A median income of $107,688 and the median home value at $268,900, makes it rank high on the affordability factor. Along with hiking along the Rock Canyon, which is a major tourist attraction, residents enjoy a versatile food and culture scene as well, thanks to its diverse population.

#2 FLOWER MOUND, TX

Poverty Rate – 3.23%

Population – 76,681

Median Household Income – $123,492

Median property value – $292,600

Education – 59.8% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 51.9%

Crime – 0.57 per 1,000 residents

Located in the Dallas-Fort-Worth metro area, Flower Mound ranks high on the happiness quotient both in Texas and nationally. It is considered one of the safest cities in Texas and boasts of vibrant cultural and food scene. A health real estate markets and umpteen new constructions have made the area one of the most coveted places for homeownership. The average commute time is only 28.6 minutes and residents have ample options to choose the pace of life they want. A high median household income and a low cost of living has paved the way for one of the most affluent areas in DFW.

#1 SUGARCREEK, OH

Poverty Rate – 2.79%

Population – 2,327

Median Household Income – $50,776

Median property value – $124,700

Education – 15.1% have completed a bachelor’s degree

Unemployment rate – 45.2%

Crime – 1,129 per 100k residents

A quintessential small town, Sugarcreek is known as the “Little Switzerland of Ohio.” This is partly to its German and Swiss residents who have lived here for generations as it is for its quaint natural charm. Along with its unique history and culture, it also boasts of low cost of living and low crime rate. The higher-than-average income and graduation rates have contributed to its higher general livability rate as well. The school has consistently rated among the top schools of the nation while Sugarcreek-based businesses have found prominence in the global business arena, both factors adding to the happiness quotient of the small town.

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