Happiness is one of those things like love, inner peace, or contentment that you can’t quite measure, but you just know when you feel it. Right?
At the Movoto Real Estate
Blog, we beg to differ. See, we like to put numbers to things. We like lists. We like facts and answers. So we’re breaking happiness down into a science. We’ve already looked at the happiest suburbs
and small places
in the U.S., and today we are getting even more specific. Today we’re heading to Missouri.
So which Missouri place was the happiest of them all? Don’t worry, we’ll show you how all of the cities ranked at the end of the post, but for now, here are the top 10 happiest cities in Missouri:
1. City of Kirkwood
2. City of Chesterfield
3. City of Ballwin
4. City of St. Peters
5. City of O'Fallon
6. City of Liberty
7. City of Lee's Summit
8. City of St. Charles
9. City of Wentzville
10. City of Maryland Heights
What exactly makes the people of Kirkwood so happy? If you went to Wentzville would you be whistling a different tune? Well, we didn’t exactly look at the effects of happiness on whistling patterns, but we can tell you why each of these places ranked so well in our analysis.
At Movoto, numbers make us happier than a camel on Wednesday; happier than a butcher’s dog; happier even than the St. Louis Rams after the ‘99 Superbowl. You get it. So we started our list by gathering some numbers—all of the places in Missouri with populations of 25,000 or more.
We then used the 2010 U.S. Census, the 2012 FBI Uniform Crime Report, and WalkScore.com, to collect data on the following super-happy criteria:
- Stress factors (including unemployment, commutes, and cost of living)
- Personal safety (violent crimes per 100,000 people)
- Percent of residents making greater than $20,000/year
- Percent of married residents
- Home ownership
- Percent of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher
- Walkability score
We omitted any places that didn’t have data, which left us with a total of 25 different places. Then, we ranked each place in each category from one to 25, with scores closer to one being better.
Finally, we averaged each place’s rankings into one overall Big Deal Score
, where the lower the number, the happier the place. We’re lookin’ at you, Kirkwood.
If you want to see more than just these top 10 happiest places, you can hop down to the bottom of the post for a complete list. Otherwise, get your full fix of euphoria as we take a closer look of our 10 winners.
Source: Flickr user Greg Nelson
This city may be a suburb of St. Louis
, but as far as happiness goes, they’re about as far apart as you can get. Like the good students who populate the city, we’ll start in an orderly fashion with education. It ranked second out of all of the places we looked at for its high number of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree—61.12 percent.
Kirkwood also ranked well for its easy walkability. It earned a walkscore of 38, which may not look like much compared to say, San Francisco
(a score of 84), but for Missouri, where places like Wentzville scored a 10, getting around here is a walk in the park.
The final and biggest difference between Kirkwood and its neighbor, St. Louis, was safety. Where Kirkwood had just 123 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2012, its larger neighbor had 1,776. For residents of Kirkwood, that’s certainly something to smile about.
Source: Tom Friel
The outlet malls alone in this city are enough to make any shopaholic or borderline shoe addict smile, but according to these numbers, it’s a happy place for those who don’t dream about Saks as well. For starters, it came in as the very best in terms of safety, with just 48 violent crimes per 100,000 people.
It also came in first for its high percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher—64.2 percent—and even came in second for its high number of married residents—63.28.
While you’re probably going to need a car in this city with a walkability score of a rather sad 18, at least your average commute time is just 26 minutes.
Source: City of Ballwin
Another St. Louis suburb, Ballwin ranked well in our analysis pretty much across the board. This is a land where 61.61 percent of the population is happily married—okay, at least married, where over 78 percent of people own their homes, and where 52.97 percent of them have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
More impressive than all of that was the high percentage of residents earning over $20,000 a year—nearly 95 percent. That made this the best-earning place in the state. No wonder Money Magazine has named Ballwin one of the 100 best places to live in America for several years!
4. St. Peters
Source: Flickr user dishfunctional
This city in St. Charles County
is probably still smiling from the last of the many accolades it has received in recent years—from one of the best places to live in the country to its awards for the Rec-Plex or the Mid Rivers Mall. Of course, we don’t have to tell you which of the awards is the best (this one, duh.)
Our analysis ranked St. Peters well for its high percentage of residents who own homes: 79.14 percent. It also told us that over 90 percent of folks earned more than $20,000 per year, which may not sound like all that much, but considering the fact that in St. Louis 31.43 percent of people earn less than $20,000 per year, we’d say this is pretty happy news for St. Peters.
Source: Flickr user scott spaeth
Here’s the interesting thing about O’Fallon: It actually ranked pretty high on our stress factors list, because of its commute time of 31 minutes and a relatively high cost of living for the state. However, with its decent scores in our other categories, it all seemed to balance out.
For example, it scored better than almost anywhere else in the state with 79.06 percent of people earning more than $20,000 per year—so it’s not like they can’t afford the cost of living. Plus, it came in third in not one, but three categories, safety, marriage, and homeownership, which really puts things into perspective.
I mean, what’s a long commute when you can go home to your spouse and feel safe? Amirght?
Source: Wikimedia user Daniel Ramirez
What but a very happy city could turn out fictional President Glen Allen Walken? Okay, if you’re not happy about the West Wing trivia, perhaps this will tickle your fancy: Liberty came in as the sixth best in the state for both its high percentage of residents making over $20,000 a year (nearly 90 percent) and residents who own their homes (73.06 percent).
It also ranked pretty well compared to our other top 10 for its low levels of stress. For example, the cost of living in Liberty was a 92, where in some places (ahem, Chesterfield
) it was as high as 104. Plus, the commute time was just a quick 23 minutes on average.
7. Lee’s Summit
Source: Flickr user Edward Tenny
Like many of our other top 10 spots, Lee’s Summit isn’t exactly a rookie when it comes to receiving awards for being awesome. It’s been ranked twice in Money Magazine’s list of best places to live in the U.S., and now, its most prestigious award: seventh happiest in Missouri by us.
Just what makes residents happier here than elsewhere? For starters, it was one of the safest places in the state, with just 118 violent crimes per 100,000 people. It also ranked fifth best for both its high percentage of married residents (58.75) and its high percentage of people earning at least $20,000 per year (over 90).
8. St. Charles
Source: Flickr user Austin King
If absolute adorability were a factor for happiness in our study, St. Charles’ Riverfront and Main Street alone would bump it to the top. Cuteness aside, though, the shopping district actually did help St. Charles in our ranking, giving it a better walking score than most places in the state—a 29.
You won’t have to worry about your safety, either, while you’re walking around, since St. Charles had the sixth lowest rate of violent crimes in our analysis.
So whether you’re lucky enough to live here, or simply visiting for the absolutely awesome Christmas Traditions Festival, we’re sure this city will leave you smiling.
Source: City of Wentzville
It almost seems like Wentzville’s place on our list should go without saying; I mean, it is the home of the St. Charles County Fair, the Greater St. Louis Renaissance Faire, and the Wabash Days Festival.
According to our analysis, things get even better. Out of all of the places we looked at, Wentzville had the highest percentage of residents who were married (67.08) and who own their homes (80.10).
If that's not enough to make you smile, may we suggest a trip with your family to the annual Wabash Days Festival to celebrate Wentzville's railroad history?
10. Maryland Heights
Source: City of Maryland Heights
It’s no wonder this city’s motto is “Where Life is Celebrated.” We’d be celebrating too if we lived here!
First of all, it had the lowest stress rate out of anywhere in our top 10, and the seventh lowest in the state. This is because it had a cost of living of 88 (where the national average is 100), a commute time of just 23 minutes, and an unemployment rate of just 5 percent (St. Louis
is 8.20 percent.)
It was also one of the better educated places in the state, with 37.69 percent of residents having earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. That certainly earns it an A+ for happiness, don’t you think?
For Good Measure
They say happiness can’t be measured, but clearly, whoever they are, they’re wrong. We’re sure residents will agree, these 10 places are pretty darn happy. Science even says so.
If you’re not one of the jolly souls lucky enough to live in one of these 10 cities already, don’t worry, be happy, we can help you find a home somewhere new (especially for those of you toward the bottom of the table below.)
(Sorry, St. Louis.)