The 10 Bona Fide Happiest Cities In North Carolina


We looked at science and data to determine which NC cities are smiling lots right now.

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Do you live in one of the happiest places in North Carolina?

According to a Harris Poll taken in October of 2015, only a third of Americans say they are truly happy. That’s too bad, considering that Americans – especially folks in North Carolina – don’t really have it too bad, in the grand scheme of things.

But, we were curious – which North Carolina cities might be the happiest? We’re about to find out, using science and data.

After analyzing the largest cities, we gleefully present the happiest places in North Carolina:

  1. Apex
  2. Holly Springs
  3. Morrisville
  4. Harrisburg
  5. Cary
  6. Knightdale
  7. Lewisville
  8. Summerfield
  9. Clemmons
  10. Stallings

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your town ranked. If you have a smile on your face, you probably live in one of these cities.

There’s a chart below the quick summary with the top 25 happiest cities in North Carolina, and more detailed statistics.

Oh, and by the way, sadly, Laurinburg is the saddest city in the Tar Heel State.

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How do you decide if a city in North Carolina is happy or not?

In order to rank the happiest places in North Carolina, we had to determine what criteria makes people happy. It isn’t a stretch to assume that happy people earn great salaries, are relatively stress free, have a stable home life and live where the weather is nice.

So we scraped the internet for those criteria, and it spit out the answer. Like magic.

How we crunched the numbers

We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using FBI crime data, the government census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sperling’s Best Places, and Twitter, this is the criteria we used, looking at the state’s 50 largest cities:

  • Percentage of residents with a college degree
  • Average commute times
  • Employment rates
  • Cost of living
  • Crime
  • Sunny days
  • % of married couples
  • % of home owners

For geo-located Tweets, we used #happy.

1. Apex

Downtown Apex.

Population: 43,589
College degrees: 2nd most
Sunny days: Most in NC

It was close, but Apex narrowly beat out Holly Springs as the happiest place in the state. Let’s see why.

First of all, most North Carolina residents have heard time and time again how ‘great’ Apex is. It’s on all sorts of lists for ‘Best Places to Live in America’ to ‘Best Places to Raise Kids.’ But when you look at the numbers, you can see why a majority of the people here are truly happy.

Money doesn’t buy happiness. But it does buy you peace of mind and the freedom to do the things you’re passionate about. Families in Apex bring in about $90,000 a year, which is the 3rd highest in the state.

And, does sunshine on your shoulders really make you happy? Apex must just have someone looking down on them from above. According to the NOAA, there are more sunny days in Apex than anywhere else in the state. They get to see the sun for about 221 days a year.

Other factors that make Apex a land of smiles and hugs: Nearly 90% of the population graduated from college, and crime is the 11th lowest in the state.

No wonder the population is exploding here. Everyone wants to be around happy people.

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Other Highlights

Holly Springs: This affluent suburb located a short drive from Apex has some really happy home owners. More than 71% of the people here are married, and 83% own their own home. Both are 2nd in the state. There’s something to be said for coming home to a loving, happy home every night.

Durham: Bull City wound up somewhere in the middle. The unemployment rate in Durham is the 10th lowest in the state (4.4%), and Durham is 4th for sunshine. What do they have to be sad about? Crime is in the top 8%, and only 43% of the residents of Durham are married.

Perhaps they’re waiting to settle down. But loneliness can cause depression.

Nearby Chapel Hill fared well in a lot of happy categories, but the high cost of living might weigh on folks. Additionally, much of the population in Chapel Hill doesn’t own a home or have a spouse. There’s ‘college happy’ and ‘adult happy.’

Charlotte: They’re relatively happy in Charlotte, when you look at the numbers. Income levels are higher than average, as are the number of homeowners and sunny days. Crime isn’t even in the top 20.

However, commute times are some of the highest in the state, meaning less happy time with the wife and kids every day.

The state capital, Raleigh, is about as happy as Charlotte, the data shows. Most people have jobs here, but many aren’t married, and the cost of living is high.

Sad on the fringes: Many of the most miserable cities in North Carolina lie on the edges of the state line, including Elizabeth City, Eden, Henderson and Lumberton.

There You Have It

Like we said earlier, trying to determine the happiest cities in North Carolina is usually a subjective matter. But if you’re analyzing cities where people are not stable, where it’s dangerous and the weather is bad, this is an accurate list.

If you’re curious enough, here are the most miserable cities in NC, according to science: Laurinburg, Elizabeth City, Lincolnton, Henderson, Kinston.

Complete data chart for mobile users
Here’s a link to the complete data chart for mobile users. Desktop users are able to see a breakout chart below.

We also wrote about the 10 Drunkest Cities In North Carolina if you want another light-hearted study.

The 25 happiest cities in North Carolina, with detailed information

nchappychart

Below is the desktop version, with more detailed stats. Mobile users can click on the link above for the complete statistics.

City Overall Rank Married rate Crime Rank Sunny Days
Apex 1 62.91% 33.7 221
Holly Springs 2 71.02% 28.1 219
Morrisville 3 63.97% 27.6 221
Harrisburg 4 67.52% 20.7 216
Cary 5 63.68% 28.8 213
Knightdale 6 61.97% 40.5 217
Lewisville 7 63.04% 24.6 214
Summerfield 8 66.16% 17.6 218
Clemmons 9 65.02% 35.3 213
Stallings 10 67.06% 41.6 215
Pinehurst 11 72.59% 20.4 213
Garner 12 53.91% 40.3 220
Wake Forest 13 64.08% 37.3 214
Clayton 14 57.73% 37.4 219
Matthews 15 61.47% 41.3 213
Murraysville 16 54.34% 42.4 215
Archdale 17 59.12% 32.6 213
Kernersville 18 58.31% 54 220
Fuquay-Varina 19 62.35% 42.5 216
Davidson 20 52.00% 38.2 216
Huntersville 21 65.50% 30.3 212
Indian Trail 22 66.27% 30.4 211
Graham 23 53.21% 51.6 217
Belmont 24 54.08% 57 216
Cornelius 25 55.43% 35.7 215
Chapel Hill 26 37.36% 39.8 216
Concord 27 56.59% 44.1 213
Fayetteville 27 49.19% 61.8 219
Mooresville 29 58.04% 54.6 216
Leland 30 68.45% 54.5 211
Mint Hill 31 63.09% 47.7 213
Mebane 32 55.46% 60.1 215
Charlotte 33 47.52% 64.8 218
High Point 34 48.47% 63.4 217
Raleigh 35 44.66% 56.5 213
Carrboro 36 44.61% 52.2 218
Winston-Salem 37 44.56% 65.9 216
Durham 38 43.91% 66.9 220
Greensboro 39 42.22% 63.7 217
Thomasville 40 49.99% 58 215
Hope Mills 41 53.56% 58 217
Monroe 42 53.86% 64.3 218
New Bern 43 49.95% 59.5 213
Piney Green 44 59.62% 53.7 213
Havelock 45 58.98% 63.1 211
Spring Lake 46 60.68% 99.2 220
Kannapolis 47 53.09% 45.2 211
Mount Airy 48 56.90% 62 214
Mount Holly 49 58.62% 61.2 211
Morganton 50 45.48% 46.7 214
Asheville 51 41.61% 62.9 212
Kings Mountain 52 57.87% 65.1 216
Wilmington 53 42.25% 67.5 216
Southern Pines 54 50.78% 67.4 213
Burlington 55 48.48% 70.1 212
Smithfield 55 50.54% 65.2 220
Shelby 57 46.18% 66.6 218
Hendersonville 58 49.64% 64.2 210
Hickory 59 44.57% 61.4 210
Gastonia 60 48.51% 66.3 214
Albemarle 61 48.21% 57.2 212
Newton 62 43.23% 63.7 215
Asheboro 63 49.48% 44.6 212
Jacksonville 64 50.93% 65.1 214
Greenville 64 33.43% 85.6 213
Rocky Mount 66 44.74% 85.3 217
Lexington 67 47.31% 57.2 218
Boone 68 13.56% 40.6 204
Roanoke Rapids 69 48.62% 59.2 209
Lenoir 70 49.64% 51.1 210
Tarboro 71 45.49% 62.3 214
Wilson 72 47.15% 63.3 214
Reidsville 73 48.43% 55.1 212
Sanford 74 47.45% 74.1 215
Statesville 75 45.73% 75.3 212
Lumberton 76 40.42% 99.2 219
Salisbury 77 41.29% 66.7 215
Goldsboro 78 45.00% 80.5 213
Eden 79 45.10% 64.2 213
Kinston 80 39.98% 80.8 217
Henderson 81 39.47% 84.1 221
Lincolnton 82 47.47% 48.9 211
Elizabeth City 83 37.44% 63.4 215
Laurinburg 84 41.11% 70.8 213

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