Miserable American Cities

This week Forbes published its second annual “miserable cities” list and it surprised me some. The rankings are based on the following:

We ranked those metros on nine factors: commute times, corruption, pro sports teams, Superfund sites, taxes (both income and sales), unemployment, violent crime and weather.

Here’s the top ten list:

1. Stockton, CA
2. Memphis, TN
3. Chicago, IL
4. Cleveland, OH
5. Modesto, CA
6. Flint, MI
7. Detroit, MI
8. Buffalo, NY
9. Miami, FL
10. St. Louis, MO

And they said this about St. Louis:

The Gateway City scored in the bottom half of all nine categories we looked at for the Forbes Misery Measure. It was the only metro area to pull off that feat.


I was honestly surprised that Chicago was that much higher than Detroit. And Gary, Indiana isn’t on the list? Maybe it’s not populous enough? Gary’s an awful place. Also, no New Orleans? Really? That was the most surprising thing to me. Thoughts? Any place you’d have wanted on that list?

5 thoughts on “Miserable American Cities”

  1. Forbes is a joke – I think for Chicago they only visited the Loop in winter. Go to any of the neighborhoods in the spring/summer/fall and it’s completely different. Traffic does suck here, but we’ve got a public transportation system that ranks in the top 10 or 20 worldwide.

    That being said, April needs to get here soon! I’m tired of snow! =)

  2. Chicago always get shafted on these things because of all the people who commute from the suburbs (and therefore, technically, shouldn’t count because they don’t actually live in Chicago).

    Also, pro sports teams? Those make people miserable? If so, then yes, Chicago is miserable. Maybe the mean teams who haven’t won anything in 4 years? Or maybe they’re only taking into account all the Cubs fans made miserable by 100 years of losing?

  3. Agreed – poor idea and execution for rankings. Misery is a very subjective thing. I barely notice the sales tax. But I do notice dull cities. And it would be very depressing living in one. I think that knocks many major cities off the list, including Chicago, Miami, and St Louis.

    Why these specific items? Why is there never any consideration for the vast differences between neighborhoods in the same city? Living on the Far West Side of Chicago is vastly different than living on the North Side. Why Superfund sites, and not, say, suicide rates? Blah blah blah.

  4. You’ll notice that one of the measurements is ‘commute time’. Commute time in the St. Louis area quadruped a year ago. It will drop back down in a year. I suspect St. Louis usually ranks high among largish cities on low commute times.

    Does the article clarify how Sports Teams were evaluated? Mere numbers of teams, how well the teams were doing, average attendance at games?

    You’ll also note that while labeled “Miserable Cities” and we are referred to as “The Gateway City” they did supposedly evaluate all their measurements on the Metropolitan Statistical Area. I’m surprised that we are in the bottom half on violent crime in the full MSA.

  5. Craig – In part of the article they said this about Chicago:

    Lousy weather, long commutes, rising unemployment and the highest sales tax rate in the country are to blame for the Windy City being near the top of our list. High rates of corruption by public officials didn’t help either.

    Though honestly, I think it’s 100% the Cubs. 😉

    Endub – I agree, the sports thing is odd. I mean, at least you have the option of GOING to a pro game. Even if it’s the Cubs. 🙂

    VK1 – I agree. Some stuff seemed arbitrary.

    John – No, as far as I could tell it didn’t really explain the factors very well. Though, being from St. Louis, I will say that its lack of nice public transportation is a ding for it, you know? It’s a very car oriented city.

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