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Happiest places to live
A ranking of the happiest places in the USA, and the ones that surprised me most. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's just that you need a change.
Regardless, maybe you're at least playfully wondering if living somewhere else might make you (or your kids) happier.
Lucky for you, I've got the list. SmartAsset just came out with its study of the 50 happiest places in the United States to live. Spoiler alerts: They skew hard toward California, and many of the spots might not be places you would have considered.
Here are the top 22 spots on the list. Why 22 out of 50? Basically because I was struck by 17 of them that wouldn’t have been on my radar screen, along with a handful of others that are a little bit more predictable.
1. Sunnyvale, Calif.
I don't know if people would have picked this one out of a hat, but it's literally called Sunnyvale, so the name itself is pretty happy. Let's put it in the not-a-surprise category.
2. Arlington, Virginia
Ranks high for personal finances, well-being and quality of life. But, it's also a suburb of Washington, D.C. So I think it belongs in the surprise category.
3. Bellevue, Washington
This city gets rain 161 days out of the year. So no matter how good other things are there, I think it's a surprise.
4. Fremont, Calif.
Another city in the San Francisco Bay area. Since San Francisco itself can't seem to buy a good news story lately, this one might be a surprise.
5 & 6. Frisco, TX & Plano, Texas
Part of the reason these Texas cities ranks so high on the list is that they have a 62.6 percent and 56.9 percent marriage rate, respectively. I am a happily married man who thinks marriage is a wonderful, vital institution, but I still would not rank a city's happiness based on this metric. So for me anyway: surprise.
7. Roseville, Calif.
According to SmartAsset, "[t]he county in which Roseville is located also has the 15th-lowest number of personal bankruptcy filings study-wide." Still: surprise.
8, 9 & 10. San Jose, Santa Claria, and Irvine, CA
These are all California cities, and even the latter two that are in the Los Angeles area aren't really all that close to each other. Given that 5 of the top 10 cities are in California, perhaps it shouldn't be as much of a surprise ... but still, surprise.
11. Huntington Beach, Calif.
A Pacific coast town with incredible weather, high net worth (otherwise you likely can't live there), and a 94 out of 100 well-being score? Let's call this one our second non-surprise.
12. Madison, Wisconsin
People who love it there really love it. Still, as I write this, it's 22 degrees in Madison with rain forecast for four of the next six days. Surprise.
13. Alexandria, Virginia
This is also a sister suburb of Washington D.C. much like the other Virginia city on the list, #2 Arlington. It's a bit more separated from DC than Arlington, but still: surprise.
14. San Francisco, Calif.
At the risk of being purely anecdotal, everyone I know in San Francisco wants to leave, which is the same impression you'd get from watching news media coverage. Big surprise that it's on this list.
15. Seattle, Washington
This is a wonderful city, but it has the same proclivity for rain and clouds as Bellevue (#3). Weather was not a named factor in the list, although some of the factors for well-being might have been expected to include it. Regardless, while it's close, I'd say it's a surprise to see Seattle rank so high.
16. Boise City, Idaho
Great place to visit; heck I wouldn't say I'd never live there. Perhaps that explains all the transplanted Californians. Not a surprise.
17. Hayward, Calif.
OK, a plurality of cities on this list are in the San Francisco Bay area, so it probably should no longer be as much of a surprise, but still: surprise.
18. Honolulu, Hawaii
One rule of thumb should be that if people are willing to pay thousands of dollars to fly someplace on vacation, it should not be a surprise to find it on this list. So, not a surprise.
19. Raleigh, North Carolina
So close on this one—a wonderful city but still a bit surprising to find it on the list.
20. Austin, Texas
The sheer number of people moving here from elsewhere might suggest something. Not a surprise to find it on the list.
21. Glendale, Calif.
Once more, it almost can't be a surprise simply because we've read so much of this list and already seen 11 of the top 21 places are in California, and several in the Los Angeles area. But without that context, it would have been a surprise, so we'll keep it in that category.
22. Virginia Beach, Va.
This is our third Virginia city, albeit the first that isn't a suburb of Washington. Quality of life comes in at 97 out of 100, which I have to admit is a surprise—but maybe one worth looking into.
There are 28 other cities on the SmartAsset list, some surprising, some not-so-much. Obviously my reaction to these was subjective; they say all writing is at least partially an autobiography.
So, I invite you to share with us in the comments: What's the top place you'd suggest people consider if they’re looking for happiness in the United States? Bonus points if it's a surprise.
7 other things worth knowing today
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States. There are so many good things to read, but I'll just pick two (one of which I wrote): (a) the story of how musician Stevie Wonder played a pivotal role in pushing the U.S. to recognize this holiday (including with his 1980 "Happy Birthday" song, and (b) my retelling of King's first big, public speech—which he gave on 15 minutes' notice—at the start of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. (BBC, Inc.com)
Changing times: Both Apple and Meta (parent of Facebook) have been dropped from the 2023 edition of the Glassdoor 100 Best Places to Work ranking. In 2021, Meta was ranked #11, while Apple was #31. But in 2022, the companies had a significant decline to #47 and #56, respectively. The rankings are based on reviews posted by employees of these companies on the platform. Meta dropped from #11 in 2021 to #47 last year before falling off, while Apple was at #31 in 2021 and #56 last year before getting cut. (9to5Mac)
Elon Musk will face trial on Tuesday over allegedly manipulating the stock market with a tweet after a federal judge rejected his request to move the case out of California. The case dates back to August 2018 when Musk tweeted that he had sufficient funding to take Tesla private, causing a whirlwind in the company's share price. (AFP)
Tipping is weird now: How technology and the pandemic have transformed the meaning of gratuity in the USA. (The Atlantic)
Hunter Biden asked for a judge to deny his estranged 4-year-old daughter (who would therefore be President Biden's granddaughter) from taking the name Biden, claiming that doing so would rob the child of a "peaceful existence." The child, whom Hunter Biden has reportedly never met (but does not dispute paternity), is being raised by her mother in Arkansas. (DailyMail)
Singer Roberta Flack, now 85, has a children's book out. It's called The Green Piano, and she says it's the true story of how her father scrounged her first piano from a junkyard when they were living in Virginia, when she was 9. I hadn't realized that Flack has ALS, which makes it impossible for her to speak now. (NPR)
Passengers applauded and got 'really emotional' after a Royal Caribbean cruise liner rescued 17 people from a tiny boat in the Bahamas. This was the latest in a series of similar incidents of cruise ships crossing paths with migrants' boats. Last week, Celebrity Cruise captain Kate McCue shared a viral video of her crew's successful attempt to rescue 19 migrants off the coast of Florida. (Insider, video on Instagram)
Thanks for reading. I wrote about some of this previously at Inc.com. See you in the comments.