The Most Miserable Cities in America

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A number off sources — including Forbes and Parenting magazines and the Gallup polling group — have released their determination of which cities or metros are the worst. Not surprisingly, Forbes cares most about issues like taxation and real estate, while Parenting focuses and crime and Gallup on how happy residents say they are. Together they give a decent overview as to which cities to stay away from — or move out of if you are unlucky enough to already live there.

St. Louis

St. Louis was named the 12th worst city by Forbes and the second most crime infested by Parenting. Forbes said that only St. Louis and Detroit ranked in the bottom half of every criterion it looked at, while Parenting says it is near the top in violent crime and sex offenders per capita. The inclusion of crime- and gang-infested East St. Louis, Ill., in the metro didn’t help.

The Most Miserable Cities in America

Mobile, Ala.

Despite its pleasant weather, nearby beaches and annual Mardi Gras, Mobile, Alabama was named third worst city in the Gallup survey and Parenting cited it as third worst in education, with low math test scores, low per-pupil spending and large class sizes.

The Most Miserable Cities in America

Chicagoland

Because Chicago and many of its suburbs and exurbs were considered separately, Chicago was a three-time loser on the Forbes misery scale. Forbes counted Chicago itself as fourth worst and exurb Rockford was third. Rockford also registered as eighth worst by Gallup. Surprisingly, the tony suburb of Lake County came in ninth at Forbes. Long commutes, the housing recession and bad weather counted against it.

The Most Miserable Cities in America

Modesto-Vallejo-Stockton, Calif.

The housing recession has slammed these three cities just east of San Francisco and south of Sacramento hard. Forbes rated Modesto fifth worst, Vallejo sixth and Stockton eighth. Modesto has 15 percent unemployment and both Vallejo and Stockton have filed bankruptcy.

The Most Miserable Cities in America

Charleston, W.Va.

Quick! What’s the capital of West Virginia? If you asked, “Are there any cities in West Virginia?” you are not alone. Gallup named Charleston as worst in the country in well-being, an index that heavily penalized the West Virginia capital for high rates of obesity and low rates of exercise and health insurance.

The Most Miserable Cities in America

New York City

It’s not crime that made The Big Apple No. 10 among most miserable cities. Rather it is the city’s hallmark high income tax rate (whoever heard of city income taxes?) and worst-in-America commutes that puts New York on Forbes’ bad list. We’re not big fans of smoking, but total excise taxes on a pack of cigarettes is nearly $6. Really? High unemployment and a declining gambling industry put nearby Atlantic City, N.J., on the list at No. 15.

The Most Miserable Cities in America

Not So Hot in Cleveland

A high-profile serial killer and another man who kept three women hostage for more than a decade recently brought the spotlight to Cleveland’s high crime rate, but it was high levels of out-migration that landed “The Mistake by the Lake” at No. 17 on Forbes’ list of misery. Rust Belt malaise put nearby Toledo on the list at No. 11.

The Most Miserable Cities in America

Atlanta

Here’s a surprise. We usually think of Atlanta as a growing Sun Belt city with a booming economy. But in reality, no city was hit as hard by the Great Recession as was Atlanta. Home prices plummeted 42 percent and foreclosures have been highest in the country, putting the largest metro in the South at No. 16 for misery.

The Most Miserable Cities in America

Wilmington, Del.

Delawhat? This tiny state isn’t known for much besides Joe Biden and being the likely home of the company that sends you your credit card bill. But Wilmington has all the crime of nearby Philadelphia and all the charm of, well, Delaware. Parenting mag called it the most dangerous, with the highest rate of violent crime and the highest number of sex offenders per capita.

The Most Miserable Cities in America

You Guessed It. Detroit

The auto industry has fled Detroit, which is No. 1 on Forbes’ miserable list, as well as No. 2 Flint and No. 7 Warren, Mich. Even though crime fell in Detroit 5 percent in 2011, it still was No. 1 on the FBI’s violent crime list. These days, it seems the biggest industries in these cities is tearing down factories and homes.

The Most Miserable Cities in America


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