After determining the happiest mid-sized cities earlier this year, the Movoto Real Estate Blog decided the time was right to rank the 10 happiest suburbs in the nation—places that can be measured in smiles just as easily as miles. Once our happy task was complete, we concluded that these are the most content ‘burbs in the country:
If you live in any of these places, you’re probably smiling right about now. If you keep reading, we’ll tell you how we came up with this ranking, as well as provide more details on why each place made our top 10. Don’t see your suburb? There’s a chance it made the top 50, which you can see at the bottom of this post.
How We Created This Ranking
We started with a list of the largest suburban communities closest to the 50 largest cities in the nation, which came to a total of 119 places . We then gathered information about each place from sources including the 2010 U.S. Census, the 2012 FBI Uniform Crime Report, and WalkScore.com. The seven criteria we used to determine a place’s overall happiness were:
- Stress factors (high unemployment, long commutes, high cost of living)
- Personal safety (violent crimes)
- Residents making greater than $25,000 a year
- Married residents
- Home ownership
- Residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher
- Convenience of amenities
After we got these numbers, we gave each place a score from 1 to 119 across the seven categories above, with one being the best. We then averaged each place’s individual rankings into an overall Big Deal Score, with the lowest score becoming our No. 1 spot.
Regarding how we defined a suburb, we considered any large population center near one of the nation’s 50 largest cities, but also factored in whether or not the place is denoted as a suburb on Wikipedia, in the list of inner-ring suburbs, or in any official capacity.
Was Dublin a place you expected to find here? Well, if not, let’s look at why it was our No. 1 and we’ll see if you’re not convinced (and amused) by the end of this article.
1. Dublin, OH
Our No. 1 happy place has a bit of the luck o’ the Irish going for it, but mostly it just knows how to keep its residents dancing, drinking, eating, and grinning. You might recognize this suburb of Columbus from oursafest suburbs list, and its third place safety rank definitely played a part in its first place finish overall.
Most of the results we found earned this place a cheerfully great score. For one, the income here ranked No. 1, with less than 5 percent of residents making less than $25,000 a year. Well over half of the locals are married, and most homes are owned rather than rented.
If you think that might be because people are settling down early rather than continuing their education, you’d be wrong. More than 73 percent of the population of Dublin has a college degree, which ranked fourth for that category.
2. Fishers, IN
For fun, Fishers locals can head to the Renaissance festival in June or the Freedom Festival in July, both of which are sure to keep spirits up. For the rest of the year, there’s mini golf, concerts, the Conner Prairie experience, and a ton of other events sure to soothe even the most troubled brow.
Honestly, though, if you live here you might not be too troubled in the first place. The safety in this Indianapolis suburb ranked first, the income is ranked second, and the marriage as well as home ownership rank were both sixth.
3. Germantown, TN
There are quite a few places on this list that sound like they might be in other countries, but we assure you that this is an all-American little city. A suburb of Memphis, this place has 39,161 residents who are all a pretty smiley bunch. Why? The numbers make it obvious.
First of all, locals don’t have to worry about renter’s woes. Over 83 percent of dwellings here are owned rather than rented, and with the No. 4 ranked income it’s not difficult to see why. Germantown also had the seventh highest safety rank, the third highest marriage rank, and the ninth highest education rank.
4. Carmel, IN
The second city in Indiana that made our top 10, Carmel has a lot to offer those looking to enjoy each day and night. Carmel is home to art centers, biking trails, and even a beautiful Japanese garden and tea gazebo. You can have fun, or just relax your mind and body at one of the many yoga studios and spas—whatever makes you happy.
It seems that a lot in this Indianapolis suburb makes people happy. For example, the safety ranked No. 2 and the education ranked No. 7. The stress factors ranking was fairly mediocre, but the income was high, which gives locals one less thing to worry about. An area where Carmel really excelled was the marriage department. An impressive 68 percent of folks here have tied the knot, so this is a romance and family friendly spot.
5. Newton, MA (tie)
The second biggest place in our top 10, Newton offers its 85,146 residents a lot to be happy about. While it didn’t have especially low scores in any one category, it did post good scores across the board and a couple of standouts.
As far as walkability goes, this place had the best rank in our top 10 with a walkability rating of 51, ranking 29th for that criterion. It also had ranked well for safest and income. Newton excelled in education attainment, placing first for that criterion.
It’s home to many colleges, such as Boston College’s Newton Campus, Mount Ida College, and Lasell College, just to name a few, which probably accounts for the fact that more than three quarters of the population here have a college degree. Students also aren’t as likely to be married or own houses, so those stats make a little more sense. Still, this is one seriously happy place. Well, except during finals week.
5. Apex, NC (tie)
Tied with Newton for No. 5 on our list is Apex. Locals of this Raleigh suburb are lucky enough to enjoy the third best income ranking on our list as well as the sixth best safety ranking. The majority of people here are married, and most have a college degree. People here are smart, caring, on the wealthier side, and tend to own a home rather than rent.
There are also plenty of events for kids, like Easter egg hunts and a ham toss. There are parades, farmers markets, parks, music venues, and more. No matter how you like to have fun or unwind, Apex is the pinnacle of making you smile.
7. Cupertino, CA (tie)
If you were wondering when a California city would make the list, your question has been answered. This suburb of San Jose is not only a busy and exciting place to live, it’s also pretty cheery.
The marriage rank was No. 4 and the education rank was No. 2, with almost three quarters of the population holding a college degree. It had the eighth best safety ranking and a pretty decent income rank, so there’s not as much for residents to worry about.
You name it and this city has got it. Art and wine festivals, concerts, city celebrations, cultural festivals, and so much more…there’s something going on literally every month, all year round, usually outside. You can thank the awesome California weather for that.
7. Westerville, OH (tie)
Another tie in our listing and another Columbus suburb, Westerville offers its 36,120 locals something to smile about. From the 10th best safety ranking to the over 70 percent of homes that are owned rather than rented, there’s a lot to be thankful and happy about. There were no particularly bad scores here, though the walkability is a little low, and there are quite a few standout attractions such as the Inniswood Metro Gardens and the Westerville Golf Center, both of which are lovely and mood-elevating.
The other great thing about this place is that there are few stress factors here. Westerville ranked 19th for that criterion, offering low unemployment rates and commute times. Workers here will be happy to know that only about 12 percent of people who live in this city make less than $25,000, so the working joe is not going to be as unhappy as in other places.
9. Papillion, NE
This is definitely the smallest spot on our top 10 with only 20,785 residents. Still, Papillion is home to some big smiles. The majority of locals are married, and the safety is pretty great too, ranked No. 4 overall. Most of the homes here are owned rather than rented, and the walkability rank was one of the better ones in our top 10.
The stress factors rank for Papillion was second overall, with the fourth lowest commute time and the lowest unemployment rate on our list. The cost of living was also fairly good, and with offerings like Runzas, Chocolaterie Stam, Papio Bay, and more festivals than you can shake a stick at, whatever stress you do have can find relief in this city.
10. Cary, NC
At 145,693 people, this Raleigh suburb is the largest place in our top 10. Its ninth place safety and ninth place marriage ranks start things off, and when you add in the 16th best income rank and the 11th best education rank, you get a pretty upbeat place to call home.
Low average commute time and a fairly low unemployment rate help make this place a little less stressful for workers, so those with a job need not worry so much. If you do need to unwind, this place has a festival for everything: arts and crafts, cultural events, wine, food, music, even a day to celebrate local bands.