MSN Money recently did a story on the happiest (and most miserable) cities in America. Austin ranked number 6 happiest with North Port-Sarasota-Brandenton, Florida topping the list. Other happy cities included El Paso at number 5, Ventura, California at number 4, Raleigh, North Carolina at number 3, and Urban Honolulu, HI at number 2. What was the most miserable town, you ask? Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH/PA.
MSN used the 2014 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index to measure stats like median household income, percentage of violent crime, and percentage of obese people when determining happiness levels, and concluded that overall well-being captures happiness well. Happier workers are more productive, a healthy economy improves happiness, and that leads to improved well being and health among residents of a certain area.
One thing they noticed was that the poverty rate in six of the most miserable cities was higher than the national poverty rate of 15.8%, while the median household income was below the national average. Alternately, happier cities had lower poverty rates and higher household incomes.
So how does Austin compare within these categories, and what makes us happier than most? One major factor was the incredibly low unemployment rate in Austin. The growth of Austin’s technology sector, as well as the thriving startup scene has led to a large number of job availability in the Austin area, especially in Round Rock. Austin’s creative vibe has also attracted many folks seeking media/entertainment industry jobs.
As we all know, this has lead to massive population growth, with over 100 people moving to Austin every day. The population has grown by 12.5% from 2010 to mid 2014, which was the third fastest growth rate in the nation. This influx of people has led to home value appreciation, but has also created a home affordability problem for many Austin residents who are now being forced to move to the outskirts.
Austinites overall seem to be healthier than most cities with an obesity rate that is much lower than the national average. Healthy dining options and opportunities for outdoor activity can be found around almost every corner, and Austinites are not afraid to take advantage of these opportunities. The birthplace of Whole Foods also got a “perfect 100” for eating habits from Women’s Health Magazine and was named one of the healthiest cities for women by the publication.
The typical household in the Austin area earned $61,750, which is higher than the national median household income of $52,250. This comes with Austin’s relatively low cost of living as compared to places like California and New York. Austinites on average live well, can afford some luxuries, and have a good work-life balance. This is apparent to most people visiting when they see Austinites out enjoying Ladybird Lake or the running trails Downtown, or visit the shops at South Congress in South Austin. Basically everywhere you turn there are happy, active, healthy people enjoying all that the great city has to offer!