These Are The 10 Bona Fide Happiest Cities In Iowa


We used science and data to determine which cities in IA are smiling the most right now.

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Do you live in one of the happiest places in Iowa?

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 Iowa – don’t really have it too bad, in the grand scheme of things.

And, we crunched the numbers on the best (and worst) states to live in America last summer, and Iowa was 2nd, right behind Nebraska. So, sounds like things are peachy keen in the Hawkeye State.

But, we were curious – which Iowa 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 Iowa:

  1. Orange City
  2. Sioux Center
  3. Urbandale
  4. Ankeny
  5. Grimes
  6. Harlan
  7. Bettendorf
  8. Waukee
  9. Sheldon
  10. Le Mars

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 Iowa, and more detailed statistics.

Oh, and by the way, sadly, Keokuk is the saddest city in the Hawkeye State.

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

In order to rank the happiest places in Iowa, 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. Orange City

The Greene Town Center Mall, Beavercreek, OH. Wikipedia

Population: 6,054
Homeowners: 2nd most
Sunny days: 7th most in IA
Commute time: 6th shortest

It wasn’t even close. When we crunched the numbers, little ole’ Orange City is the happiest place in Iowa. Let’s see why.

First of all, where is Orange City? We’re glad you asked; it’s the county seat of Sioux County, a short drive from South Dakota. Actually, this part of the state is apparently really happy since Sioux Center was 2nd on the list.

What makes Orange City such a skippity-do-da place? Almost 80% of residents own their own home, which is the 2nd highest rate in the state. And, just about everyone has a job (the unemployment rate is 2.8%), and short commutes to work (10 minutes each way).

Plus, does sunshine on your shoulders make you happy? It sure does. Studies have shown that a lack of vitamin D is not only bad for you physically, it can really wreck havoc on your emotions. Well in Orange City, they get 211 sunny days a year – good enough for 7th highest in the state.

The population in Orange City has climbed 7% in the last 10 years. No wonder the population is exploding here. Everyone wants to be around happy people.

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Other Highlights

Urbandale (3rd happiest): This affluent suburb located a short drive from Des Moines has some really happy couples. More than 64% of the population is married (which is 4th highest), and they are the 3rd wealthiest and 5th highest employed in the state.

There’s nothing like coming home from a great job to a loving spouse every night.

West Des Moines: On the happier side of things, WDM ranks 22nd (out of 84 cities with a population over 5,000). What makes West Des Moines a relatively happy place? They are 10th in college degrees (79%), and 9th in income levels.

What sets it back? The cost of living is just about the highest in the state, and only 58% of the population owns a home. Plus, crime is about average.

Nearby Des Moines might not be happy to hear that they’re not so happy – at least in the grand scheme of things. Why? It’s the 10th most dangerous place, according to the FBI. Yes, we’re aware that dangerous in Iowa is a lot safer than dangerous in, say, Illinois. But, when comparing cities across the board, it’s one of the happiest places for criminals.

Des Moines also ranked in the bottom 20 in married rates (46%), homeowners (58%) and unemployment (4.8%). Add it up, and they’re the 14th most miserable city in the state.

Cedar Rapids: The 2nd largest city in the state is ho-hum about things. At least that’s what the data says. Cedar Rapids ranks just about in the middle for most categories. Cedar Rapids is in the bottom 10% for sunny days (193) and top 10% for intelligence, where more than two-thirds of residents finished college.

Happiest in the burbs? Many of the cities that scored the highest for happiness in Iowa are suburbs of major cities – specifically Des Moines. Maybe the saying, ‘Loving the simple life,’ applies to Iowans.

Miserable in Iowa: The following cities scored the worst: Keokuk, Fort Madison, Oelwein, Waterloo and Manquoketa. Davenport wasn’t too far behind at No. 10 from the bottom.

Which makes us sad.

There You Have It

Like we said earlier, trying to determine the happiest cities in Iowa 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.

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 Iowa if you want another light-hearted study.

The 25 happiest cities in Iowa 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 Rate Sunny Days
Orange City 1 56.27% 31.6 211
Sioux Center 2 56.45% 19.4 205
Urbandale 3 64.53% 37.7 205
Ankeny 4 63.33% 32 204
Grimes 5 63.51% 25.7 206
Harlan 6 58.80% 29.9 212
Bettendorf 7 59.83% 27.1 203
Waukee 8 65.49% 32.4 199
Sheldon 9 57.40% 31.8 206
Le Mars 10 59.44% 42.3 204
Johnston 11 65.81% 33.4 199
Carroll 12 54.28% 24.7 209
Spencer 13 59.02% 36.9 206
Pleasant Hill 14 61.08% 36.2 203
Norwalk 15 61.81% 27.2 198
Denison 16 47.52% 30.7 217
Clive 17 65.42% 44.6 200
Algona 18 54.80% 42.7 197
Waverly 19 52.89% 26.9 190
Altoona 20 61.90% 37.1 201
Shenandoah 21 58.92% 20.8 218
West Des Moines 22 56.94% 42.4 200
Nevada 23 62.18% 72.8 202
Pella 24 54.46% 50.7 203
Eldridge 25 58.18% 24.3 202
Marion 26 57.72% 38.8 188
Atlantic 27 55.21% 34.3 212
Indianola 27 48.41% 41.4 206
North Liberty 29 49.40% 39 193
Knoxville 30 56.16% 44.6 204
Independence 31 59.02% 25.5 190
Estherville 32 52.61% 47.1 199
Glenwood 33 53.38% 50.5 212
Iowa Falls 34 47.88% 16.9 196
Clarinda 35 45.58% 53.7 214
Coralville 36 49.00% 36.2 198
De Witt 37 57.69% 38.4 199
Cedar Falls 38 42.22% 41.8 192
Fairfield 39 40.88% 39.8 199
Clear Lake 40 58.63% 33.4 190
Washington 41 55.19% 61.6 199
Boone 42 51.50% 50.4 198
Cherokee 43 47.99% 80.4 211
Mason City 44 47.36% 41.1 188
Sioux City 45 48.27% 53.1 210
Creston 46 50.50% 46.8 202
Decorah 47 38.90% 25.3 192
Cedar Rapids 48 48.11% 50.4 193
Hiawatha 49 45.02% 21.2 192
Muscatine 50 52.50% 60.9 198
Storm Lake 51 48.05% 59.2 209
Vinton 52 57.25% 43.1 190
Grinnell 53 44.81% 45.4 196
Perry 54 51.89% 54.6 203
Red Oak 55 51.10% 46.4 211
Burlington 55 50.25% 65.5 200
Manchester 57 51.06% 56.2 189
Ames 58 33.86% 50.9 202
Marshalltown 59 53.60% 56.3 196
Iowa City 60 33.16% 48.3 199
Fort Dodge 61 41.56% 51.4 203
Webster City 62 54.46% 56.6 200
Mount Pleasant 63 48.06% 58.6 203
Ottumwa 64 49.06% 56.3 200
Council Bluffs 64 48.03% 81.7 211
Dubuque 66 46.86% 63.4 194
Des Moines 67 46.51% 61.8 204
Newton 68 49.78% 35.4 200
Winterset 69 59.30% 34.9 204
Clinton 70 49.95% 62.7 197
Davenport 71 45.56% 73.8 203
Charles City 72 48.59% 34.9 187
Anamosa 73 45.18% 31.8 188
Oskaloosa 74 47.38% 53.2 194
Centerville 75 49.49% 58 200
Maquoketa 76 53.32% 54.8 195
Waterloo 77 47.55% 65.7 194
Oelwein 78 48.69% 58.2 192
Fort Madison 79 45.51% 63.4 204
Keokuk 80 47.21% 84.5 202

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