On numerous occasions, Boulder has been named the happiest city in America. So naturally we assumed Boulder would top Movoto's list of happiest mid-sized cities -- a category for which Boulder qualifies. But no: While one Colorado place made the cut, it's not called Boulder.
Which community from this fair state finished near the top? Count down the top ten below, complete with photos and excerpts from Movoto text, followed by an explanation about methodology.
Number 10: McKinney, Texas
We [begin] our tour of America's happiest mid-sized cities in the Lone Star State, where smiles certainly aren't an endangered species -- especially not in McKinney. Maybe it has something to do with all that wedded bliss in the air? That wouldn't be surprising considering more people in McKinney are married than in any other place on our top 10 list: 63 percent, resulting in an eighth place overall rank for marriage....
Number 9: Thousand Oaks, California
Thousand Oaks was also named one of our safest mid-sized cities recently, but that's not the only reason its residents are smiling. In addition to that distinction, which earned it an eighth-place finish on this list in terms of safety, it also placed sixth overall for income (with 9 percent of households making under $25,000 a year) and ninth overall for home ownership (more than 70 percent of its houses are owner-occupied).....
Continue to keep counting down the ten happiest mid-sized U.S. cities according to Movoto. Number 8: Bellevue, Washington
The Carpenters once sang "rainy days and Mondays always get me down," and you'd think that, at least in terms of sogginess, a city in Washington would have to rate as pretty depressing by '70s songwriter standards. As it turns out, though, Bellevue would put a smile on Karen's face -- rain or shine....
Number 7: Overland Park, Kansas
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Kansas is known as "The Sunflower State," but in the case of Overland Park, it would seem that money grows on trees. Well, there's at least enough of it to go around that only 9 percent of households there make less than $25,000 a year, a figure good enough to earn Overland Park eighth place in our income category overall....
Continue to keep counting down the ten happiest mid-sized U.S. cities according to Movoto. Number 6: Olathe, Kansas
Olathe proves that they don't just grow corn in Kansas -- they grow happiness. Olathe in particular seems to grow wealth and relationships, as the city placed 11th and 17th overall for income above $25,000 and percentage of married residents, respectively....
Number 5: Richardson, Texas
Everything, they say, is bigger in Texas. We assume that also goes for the smiles, and in Richardson they must be grinning from ear to ear right about now. Home to the University of Texas, this Dallas suburb has clearly retained a well-educated populace, as it placed 19th overall for attainment of a bachelor's degree or higher with 50 percent of its residents holding that distinction....
Continue to keep counting down the ten happiest mid-sized U.S. cities according to Movoto. Number 4: Cary, North Carolina
Cary just recently appeared on our ranking of the safest mid-sized cities in America, so it's of little (or no) surprise the city did exceptionally well when it comes to safety. As we said above, Cary shares its first-place ranking in safety with Naperville at just 79 violent crimes per 100,000 residents....
Number 3: Napierville, Illinois
It's been said that money can't buy happiness. The residents of Naperville might disagree with that statement. Not only did the city post a second-placed ranking in terms of income with only 6 percent of households making less than $25,000 a year, but the city has a median household income of $101,911, nearly twice the national average....
Continue to keep counting down the ten happiest mid-sized U.S. cities according to Movoto. Number 2: Arvada, Colorado
Convenience is key to Arvada's happiness. With a walk score of 85, this town, located outside of Denver, CO, is the fifth most convenient overall and has the most accessible amenities of any place in our top 10. Arvada also solicits smiles from residents with its high marks in safety (18th overall) and home ownership (70 percent are owner-occupied, placing it 10th overall for that criterion). Its residents could be more stress-free, however; the city ranked 99th for low stress factors, with a cost of living just one percent shy of the national average, a 29-minute average commute, and 7.3 percent unemployment rate....
Number 1: Rochester, Minnesota
Are you smiling as you read this? Then chances are you live in our happiest mid-sized city, Rochester (Minnesota, not New York). According to our findings, Rochester made it to the top of our list thanks to its relatively stress-free living.
Rochester ranked 13th overall in terms of having low stress factors, which translates into a cost of living 4 percent below the national average, a commute time of just seven minutes on average, and a low 4.3 unemployment rate....
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How Movoto measured cities' happiness
In his book [Who's Your City?], Richard Florida discusses his conclusions following research into what makes cities happy places, having looked at common sense ideas like "the more money people make, the happier they are" and less common concepts such as correlations between marital status and happiness. Piggybacking on his research, we were able to adapt it into the following seven criteria, one of which is actually comprised of three sub-factors:
• Stress factors (high unemployment, long commutes, high cost of living) • Personal safety (violent crimes) • Residents making greater than $25,000/year • Married residents • Home ownership • Residents with a bachelor's degree or higher • Convenience of amenities
In his research, Florida found that only 43 percent of people making less than $25,000 a year reported being happy with their city. On the other hand, 69 percent of married residents and 73 percent of residents with a bachelor's degree or higher reported they were. So, using data from the U.S. Census, we were able to focus in on those groups within each city and measure how much of the population they comprised.
The particular stress factors we looked at were also found to correlate to a city's happiness, as were higher home ownership, personal safety, and convenience in the sense of amenities being easily accessible, which is where the website WalkScore.com came in.
We applied these criteria to 200 mid-sized cities, which we defined as those ranked 101 through 300 in terms of population size in the U.S. according to the Census Bureau. (Note: Boulder places at number 279 population-wise on this list.) Each city was given a score of one to 200 in the individual criteria, with one being the best, after which we averaged these scores into one aggregate, which we call our Big Deal Score. The lowest aggregate score was crowned the winner, in this case Rochester, MN.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.