2. 83220: Bern, ID
3. 50323: Urbandale, IA
4. 12812: Blue Mountain Lake, NY
5. 52411: Cedar Rapids, IA
6. 67230: Wichita, KS
7. 64167: Kansas City, MO
8. 58016: Clifford, ND
9. 35223: Birmingham, AL
10. 03751: Georges Mills, NH
If you’ve never heard of a few of these places, that’s okay, we’ll look at each in depth in the following sections.
And, of course, if you’re curious as to how we created this ranking, feel free to scroll to the bottom of this article to read the section on our methodology. For now, let’s look at our top 10 winners.
1. 95497, Sea Ranch, CA
This California city kind of has its own little culture. It has unique architecture, lovely views, and a rather wealthy population. And by rather, we mean really, really wealthy for the most part. It makes sense, then, that well over 90 percent of locals make over $25,000 per year. Heck, we’re surprised the number is that low.
The other numbers here were impressive as well. Over 90 percent of locals owned homes rather than renting, over 71 percent of people were married, and around 70 percent of people had at least a bachelor’s degree.
On top of all that, no locals here reported being unemployed during the years of our survey, and the commutes were an easy average of only 11 minutes.
2. 83220, Bern, ID
Never heard of this place? That’s perfectly understandable, considering this Idaho ZIP code was merely 142 people in size. That being said, great things sometimes come in small packages, and that was certainly the case here.
Over 90 percent of locals made more than $25,000, over 82 percent were married, and literally everyone owned their home rather than just renting. No one was unemployed, and the commute times were very low, which makes sense considering their proximity to bigger cities like Montpelier.
The only low point was the fact that less than half of the populace had at least a bachelor’s degree, but perhaps for locals here, there are just more important things in life.
3. 50323, Urbandale, IA
Urbandale locals are probably none too surprised to see their city made the list. They’ve been ranked one of the safest places, one of the best places to live, and even one of the best places for marriage (about 80 percent of locals are married, by the way.) Why wouldn’t these guys be happy?
The good stats don’t stop there, though. Over 65 percent of locals had a college degree, the unemployment was only about two percent, and over 95 percent of people owned their homes rather than renting. It also didn’t hurt that over 96 percent of locals made at least $25,000 per year.
Really, the only downside was the slightly longer commute time of 19 minutes, but that’s still a shorter commute than the majority of the nation, and better than many places in Iowa, too.
4. 12812, Blue Mountain Lake, NY
With a great little museum, a lovely lake, and wonderful people, it’s easy to smile when you live here. Well, the zero percent unemployment rate and the 100 percent of locals making more than $25,000 per year probably has something to do with it too.
In addition, almost 80 percent of locals here were married, over 95 percent of people owned their homes rather than renting, and the commute times were quite tolerable. All in all, there were really no major downsides.
Well, there was the mere 35 percent of locals who had a college degree, the lowest for that category in our top 10. But perhaps for some people in this New York locale, a simple piece of paper isn’t their key to happiness.
5. 52411, Cedar Rapids, IA
This was another city that has shown up on our lists before. As a great place for married folks, well over 74 percent of locals had tied the knot, and over half the population had at least a college degree under their belt.
The great scores didn’t stop there. The unemployment rate was under four percent, the commutes were only 17 minutes on average, and over 97 percent of people owned their homes rather than renting. Over 95 percent of people even made more than $25,000 per year.
This might also have something to do with the fact that this place is right up against so many beautiful parks and wildlife preserves. Hey, trees and animals make a lot of people smile, after all.
6. 67230, Wichita, KS
Maybe you’re surprised by this one. Really? Wichita? Yep, and for some very good reasons.
For starters, over 93 percent of locals made at least $25,000 per year, and over 73 percent of those locals were married as well. As an added bonus, 94 percent of people here owned a home rather than renting, so that’s one more thing to grin about.
How’s the job situation, you may wonder. Well, wonder not, because the unemployment is a very low 2.6 percent, and the average commute time is a quite tolerable 17 minutes. Well, if you can navigate that Kansas Turnpike, of course.
Lastly, the locals here were a decently brainy bunch, with over 61 percent of them holding at least a college degree.
7. 64167, Kansas City, MO
Way on the outskirts of this large Missouri city, this little ZIP code of only 280 people knows how to keep its locals content. For one thing, locals keep each other pretty happy all on their own, with over 88 percent of them being married.
From there, the stats are downright astounding. No one was unemployed, everyone owned their own home, and everyone made more than $25,000 per year at the time of our survey. This was also an education-loving spot, considering over 94 percent of locals had a college degree.
What could possibly be the downside? Well, this place did have the longest commute in our top 10, at a grueling 23 minutes on average. Still, for all this place offers, it’s got to be worth it.
8. 58016, Clifford, ND
The actual city of Clifford is tiny. Like crazy tiny. But the area it’s in is still easily one of the happiest places in the county. For starters, the commute times were a low 13 minutes on average, and no one reported as unemployed during the time of our survey. As far as financial worries go, locals didn’t have to stress, seeing as they made at least $25,000 on average each year.
This was also a decent area for lovebirds, seeing as over 62 percent of locals were already married. Those locals were also pretty well educated; more than half of them had at least a college degree.
As one final and all-important perk, over 97 percent of people who lived here owned their very own home rather than having to rent.
9. 35223, Birmingham, AL
Now let’s be honest here. This little ZIP was really mostly in Mountain Brook, so hats off to that little city too. Let’s start this off by saying that the unemployment rate here was very low, less than 1.5 percent and that workers had a commute time of only 17 minutes on average to sit though.
On top of those great stats, 71 percent of locals here were married, over 80 percent of them had a college degree, and 93 percent of them made at least $25,000 per year. It’s also worth noting that over 89 percent of locals were homeowners at the time of our survey.
This area also contained the Birmingham Zoo, which is definitely a great place to delight adults and children alike. So no matter what makes you smile, this place has a ton to offer.
10. 03751, Georges Mills, NH
Residing between Otter Pond and Sunapee, this ZIP code was a pretty special place to call home. And that’s besides the shady lovely trees and peaceful afternoon fishing trips. This place offered up a zero percent unemployment rate and a financial situation in which everyone reported making more than $25,000 per year.
The commute times here were pretty middle of the pack, but the really good scores had to do more with the locals. Over 70 percent of people who lived here were married, and around half of them had completed at least a bachelor’s degree.
Though owning a home here can get a little expensive, it’s also manageable. Just ask the 91 percent of locals who own a home rather than renting.
Home Is Where The Heart Is
No matter what’s going on in your hometown, no matter what the numbers say, if you’re happy with your situation, that’s really all that matters. So hats off to the locals in these fine locales. May we all be so lucky as to find a home that keeps us smiling.
If you’re looking for that special place, we can help take luck out of the equation. We sell houses when we’re not making informative lists and rankings, so feel free to drop us a line. We’ll do our best to make you happy.
How We Created This Ranking
In determining the criteria for this Big Deal List, we looked at “Who’s Your City?” by Richard Florida, which you can find out a little more about in this article from last year. In short, we looked at stress factors and things that have shown to boost happiness and examined every ZIP code in the nation in the following six criteria :
- Unemployment (the lower the better)
- Average commute times (the lower the better)
- Percent of residents making greater than $25,000 per year (the higher the better)
- Percent of residents who are married (the higher the better)
- Percent of residents who own their home (the higher the better)
- Percent of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher (the higher the better)
There are many factors that determine happiness, and these are only a few very important ones. So if you find that you don’t fit this description and are still happy as a clam, don’t worry. Everyone is a little different, right?
We gathered this data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey (2009-2013) and omitted any place that did not have full data for every category. That left us with 30,488 ZIP codes to examine. We then ranked each ZIP code in each criteria from 1 to 30,488, with scores closer to one being better.
Then, we averaged each place’s rankings together into one overall Big Deal Score. The place with the lowest number for that Big Deal Score became our happiest place. You can check out our top 50 happiest ZIP codes in the table below.