America's most miserable cities
According to 10 factors including unemployment, home prices, crime and weather, these places are downright depressing.
Miami (left) and Flint, Mich., are two of the most miserable U.S. cities this year. © Getty Images; Ilene MacDonald/Alamy
Miami is a playground for the rich and famous. Celebrities flock to parties at South Beach clubs and then return to their $10 million mansions in Miami Beach and Key Biscayne. It's a leading city in culture, finance and international trade. But away from the glitz and glamour, many ordinary Miamians are struggling.
A crippling housing crisis has cost multitudes of residents their homes and jobs. The metro area has one of the highest violent-crime rates in the country, and workers face lengthy daily commutes. Add it all up and Miami takes the top spot in our ranking of America's Most Miserable Cities. (Bing: Find violent-crime stats for your city)
The most famous way to gauge misery is the Misery Index developed by economist Arthur Okun in the 1960s, which combines unemployment and inflation. Our take on misery is based on the things that people complain about on a regular basis.
We looked at 10 factors for the 200 largest metropolitan areas and divisions in the U.S. Some are serious, such as violent crime, unemployment rates, foreclosures, property and income taxes, home prices and political corruption. Other factors we included are less weighty, such as commute times, weather and how the area's pro sports teams did. Although many would consider sports, commuting and weather trivial, they can be the determining factor in the level of misery for a significant number of people. One tweak to this year's list: We swapped out sales-tax rates for property-tax rates. Miami would have finished No. 1 under the old methodology as well (click here for more details about the criteria for the list).
In Miami, there is a growing divide between the top 1% and the rest of the metro area. Life is good for the likes of basketball player LeBron James and Latin pop crooner Enrique Iglesias, who's building a $20 million compound on a private island with girlfriend Anna Kournikova, but if you're among the 75% of households with an annual income of less than $75,000, it can be a hard place. The median home price is down 41% over the past three years, sixth-worst in the country, to $169,000. It's great news for first-time homebuyers, but not so great for the 47% of homeowners in Miami sitting on underwater mortgages.
A whopping 364,000 properties in the Miami area have entered the foreclosure process since 2008, according to RealtyTrac. The number of foreclosure filings slowed in Miami and across the country last year, but many believe the housing market is far from a comeback.
Miami voters are fed up. Last year 88% voted to throw Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez out of office in the biggest recall ever of a municipal government official. They were dissatisfied with property-tax increases he pushed though during Miami's real-estate meltdown, while doling out raises to staffers at the same time. Miami residents were further outraged by the city and county covering 80% of the cost of the Florida Marlins' $634 million stadium, set to open in April, despite the Marlins turning fat profits in recent years.
- MSN Money: Most and least disaster-ready cities
To replace Alvarez, Miamians selected retired firefighter Carlos Giménez in an election that featured Luther Campbell of 2 Live Crew fame, who famously was brought up on public obscenity charges for performing songs from his album "As Nasty As They Wanna Be." The controversial rapper, who promoted an exotic-dancer tax during his mayoral campaign, finished fourth with 11% of the vote. Consider: 11% of voters thought "Uncle Luke" would be the best choice to run the eighth-most-populous county in the U.S.
- On our blog, 'Listed': Atlanta is an epicenter of housing crisis
Giménez's office took issue with Forbes' use of some data from 2010 for our ranking. "We've completed a number of initiatives and infrastructure projects during the past two years, which if used in the measurement criteria for your report would dramatically change its result towards a much more positive position for Miami-Dade county," the mayor's office said in a statement. "In addition, our crime rate has been moving downward steadily, our property taxes were dramatically reduced last year by over $200 million, and our unemployment rate has been reduced by around 30% since last summer and continues to move downward."
Miami has local company in misery on our list: The West Palm Beach metropolitan division ranks fourth and Fort Lauderdale is seventh. Both areas have been hit hard by the housing crisis.
South Florida politics have long been stained by corruption, which we factor into our list based on data from the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Justice Department on the number of politicians convicted of crimes. South Florida has had 354 public officials convicted of crimes over the past decade, one of the highest rates in the country on a per capita basis.
The latest trouble in the West Palm Beach area involves the mayor of Boynton Beach, Jose Rodriguez, who was suspended from his office last month by Gov. Rick Scott after Rodriguez was arrested for allegedly using his position to obstruct a child-abuse probe involving his wife's estranged daughter.
The Miami Heat brought Florida sports fans much joy when it paired James and Dwyane Wade in 2010 and the duo led the Heat to the NBA finals. The rest of the Miami pro sports scene is pure misery, with the Miami Dolphins, Miami Marlins and Florida Panthers all among the worst teams in their respective sports last year (the Panthers have rebounded this season).
Michigan's troubled duo of Detroit and Flint clock in at No. 2 and No. 3 among the most miserable cities. The cities have been reeling for decades due to the decline of the U.S. auto industry and in recent years have been demolishing houses to change their city landscapes. Detroit has closed schools and laid off police, while Michigan appointed an emergency manager last year to take over Flint's budget and operations. Detroit and Flint rank No. 1 and No. 3 when it comes to violent crime, and unemployment over the past three years in both communities has been among the worst in the U.S.
Last year's most miserable city, Stockton, Calif., ranks No. 11 this year. Stockton got a boost as housing prices have stabilized after a 45% drop between 2006 and 2008. It also benefited from our replacement of sales-tax rates with property taxes in the methodology; it would have finished No. 6 under the old methodology. Stockton still has plenty of problems, though. It ranks among the country's six worst when it comes to unemployment, foreclosures and violent crime.
About Miami being such a terrible place to live - I was there in the mid-1960's and it was Beautiful! It was clean, properties well kept and it was a safe place to be but this was before Jimmie Carter and his democrat buddies leaving in all the Hispanics. It is a completely different place today. I don't want to seem prejudice but think about it!
When I lived in South Florida I attended some Marlin games and was so shocked at the small numbers of people attending the games. So why do they think people are going to attend games at a new stadium? The Marlins usually have a decent, if not great team, but baseball is not a big draw in Florida.
When it comes to America's most miserable cities to live in, I think more than numbers in unemployment, foreclosures, and crime should be considered. All three of these factors are in every American city. Some just have more than others and don't forget such numbers never reported.
Let me tell you about Topeka, Kansas and ask you a few questions. Then you decide what criteria really describes a MISERABLE City. All 3 of the above factors also pertain to Topeka, KS. However, you need to add in Topeka Police Corruption; Political Corruption, after all Topeka is the capitol of Kansas, so there's lots of Politicians; Money Greed; A Lot of very Unfriendly People that wouldn't help you if you lay on I-70 dying. When I moved here 10 years ago I felt like I had gone through a time warp and I was back in the 1970's, no kidding. Now I know there are exceptions. If you were born and raised here you would say Topeka is the #1 place to live. These are the people who have lived their lives in a bubble surrounded by people of their kind. Outsiders (from other cities) are not welcome in Topeka cause Topekans don't like any kind of new ideas or change. When Google was thinking of moving here, I thought I was going to throw up. Lucky for Google they didn't. the city leaders can grin a mile and tell tall tales about how wonderful Topeka is if they want something. In the 10 Miserable years I have lived here, I have not been able to find a Dentist who #1. Knows anything about teeth; #2. Who isn't about to be honest about what's really wrong with your teeth . After all honesty would mean they wouldn't rake in lots more money. I thank God I kept my doctors in my previous City or I could be dead by now. Lots of Topeka people have told me some horror stories about the medical care here. Well, I could go on and on but I think by now you get the picture. Oh, yeah, Topeka is the most racial discriminating City I have ever lived in. Of course, that really goes for the entire state of Kansas. About 2 years after I moved here I had a black friend from another city come visit me. None of my neighbors have spoken to me since then. I voted for President Obama but during the campaign I was too afraid to put a "Vote for Obama" sign in my front yard. I met a lady at the local library who told me the same thing. If that isn't discrimination I sure don't know what is. I didn't move here by choice, my job moved me here. So, please pray for me that I can get out of this evil, corrupt town soon. If you don't believe what I have written, why don't you move here for awhile? Remember though, I warned you!
Yeah, Where the heck is Camden NJ,,, # 2 crime scum-bag city in America
'da Of course------------- ALL DEMS ALL DAY
The DEMOCRATIC Party, Destroyer of Cities,,,, Detroit ALL DEMS for over 60 years
All the top 10 hell-holes-- ALL Dems all day
Congrats to the Democrats------ You clowns must be so proud.
HIGH CRIME=Democratic controlled hell-holes
another big problem is the labour unions,if you don't believe it check out the wages
a lot of them recieve. IF YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE ONE QUARTER OF THE PEOPLE
IN UNIONS OR HIGH PAYING POLITICAL/FINANCE RELATED JOBS THE BALANCE
IS FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS AND THE MINIMUM WAGE FOLKS AND BELIEVE ME
THE MIDDLE CLASS IS SHRINKING. Check this out take a raw product from U.S ship
it to China or Japan have it manufactured shipped back cheaper than you can make
it here,Thank you very much UNIONS,and the high priced few. Thank you
You forgot Buffalo, NY in regards to a miserable city to find a job or to live.....It pay to play here if your looking fo a job.
If Democrat Party control caused all of this urban decline, no one should vote for them.
If Democrat Party control can't turn around the decline, then the Democrats are impotent and no one should vote for them.
By the way, where's Camden, NJ, another city controlled by Democrat Party politicians for decades?
Keep voting Democrat, all you inhabitants of fading cities. You know what the definition of insanity is - Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
This is BHO's theory. Increase the taxes on the 50% who are hard working so that it doesn't impose any further hardship on the 50% who are not working and getting everything for nothing.
I heard so many comments about CLint Eastwoods superbowl ad re. CHrysler who is supposedly on its way back. What he didn't say was Congress gave Chrysler a $3billion loan which they not only didn't repay but when Fiat (Italian co.) bought them, the White House forgave the $3billion "We, the people" loaned them. The ad should have ended with brought "Brought to you by Fiat; Gracias crazy Americano".
But, you can be sure BHO will get all those Chrysler union votes in November. WAKE UP!
Essentially this is what's happening in America. You have the tiny group of greedy, merciless, manipulating winner-take-all Capitalists destroying the republic over the last 30 years and all the carnage that followed was from their actions.
The political system is a joke, the idea of a two party system is just there to maintain the illusion of fairness. The vast majority of Americans are losing both political and economic power steadily as the top tier of the wealthy never had it better.
I look forward to the day when my fellow Americans and I can destroy this movement of greed along with all the leaders of it who deserve to stand in line at the guillotine. Then we will truly have morning in America.
This matter isn't about politics, although I'm sure you'd love to make it about that especially with the election drawing nearer.
No, what I'm TRULY shocked about is the fact that MIAMI, my own hometown, is considered a miserable city.
Honestly, if THIS is miserable.. well then half the world must be in hell.