Business Insider named the top 50 most miserable cities in the United States. I found the list interesting my home town and its immediate neighboring city both made the top 50.
Here is the data that Business Insider used to create its list:
- Population change from 2010 to 2018
- Percentage of people in the civilian labor force
- Median household income
- Percentage of people without health insurance
- Median commute time
- Percentage of people in poverty
The data was not weighted equally. Population change was weighted at 40 percent, commute time at 15 percent, and the rest was weighted at 10 percent.
Making the list of the top 50 most miserable cities is my home town, Lancaster, California
This is what Bussiness Insider had to say about Lancaster:
50. Lancaster, California
Lancaster, a desert town, has almost 160,000 people, 51% of whom work, and 23% of whom live in poverty. It’s had crime problems, both with meth addiction and neo-Nazis. But Mayor R. Rex Parris is doing what he can to kickstart the city, including looking to China for investment.
Contrary to what you might read on Twitter, not everyone to the right of Bernie Sanders is a neo-Nazi. The Antelope Valley, where Lancaster is located, has indeed had problems with bonified, real-life neo-Nazis, not people who voted for Donald Trump and choose not to recycle.
Also making the list was Palmdale:
36. Palmdale, California
Palmdale has 156,667 people — 59% are in the workforce, and 19% live in poverty.
It also has a median commute time of 42.7 minutes, which is the highest on the list. It was at one point called “the foreclosure capital of California.”
What I found interesting about Palmdale cracking the top 50 of the most miserable cities was that it’s the next city over from Lancaster. The two are next to one another without a buffering town or city between the two. For all intended purposes, the two are the same, different in name only. I saw my first R-rated movie, Alien, in Palmdale. The first girl I ever dated lived in Palmdale.
Palmdale is now a commuter city
Palmdale has changed a lot since I joined the Air Force and left the Antelope Valley in 1984. It experienced a huge expansion of single-family homes in the 90s built close to California 14, the highway that connects the Antelope Valley with greater Los Angeles. I’m not all surprised Palmdale has a median commute time of 42.7 minutes since it was reengineered to be a commuting city. People bought homes in Palmdale so they could commute to Los Angeles, or as we referred to it as, “Down Below.” We called it that because Lancaster sits at over 2,000 feet in elevation. The term was coined by earlier generations who evidently took altitude very seriously.
There are other reasons Lancaster and Palmdale are miserable places to live
One of the things I hated the most about living in the Antelope Valley was the weather. It was not only terribly hot, but most days were also remarkably windy. It gets on your nerves to have a hot, dry wind blowing on you all the time. That changed in the Winter to a cold, dry wind blowing on you. The fact that it is the desert means the wind — hot or cold — was infused with tiny dirt particles.
To this day I hate the wind. You will never see me flying a kite or spending money on a wind chime.
Growing up, I found the area to be a very depressing place to live in. I was proud when the Space Shuttle was manufactured there. It’s why I was angry when I saw that Texas put the Space Shuttle on their license plates. Texas had nothing to do with the shuttle. Worse, it showed the shuttle landing. It landed all the time at nearby Edwards Air Force Base. What Texas did with including the Space Shuttle on their license plate was a prime example of cultural appropriation. They appropriated my culture.
My favorite thing about the area was its close proximity to Los Angeles. I loved LA. I still do.
The color of misery
The local vegetation, scrub brush, tumbleweeds, and Joshua trees were all various shades of depressing brown. Joshua trees didn’t become cool until U2 named one of the greatest albums of all time after the high-desert tree.
I will admit, when I go back to visit, I do find the Joshua tree to be interesting to look at. That’s probably because I know I will be returning to Maryland were trees look like trees and are green. There are areas here in Maryland that look more like the jungle than some of the actual jungles I’ve been to.
This list puts far too much importance on population change. Not all population changes are the same. Not all are for dubious reasons. People generally move a lot more now than they did back in olden times. Where I live in Maryland, people frequently move from Hagerstown to West Virginia or Pennsylvania. People in West Virginia and Pennsylvania often move to Maryland. Both states are only a few miles away. Before we bought our home in Maryland, we spend a lot of time looking for homes in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. It’s what people here do.
I think before factoring in population change, Business Insider should have determined how far away people were moving. They most likely didn’t have access to such data. It’s still something to consider.
They also could have asked people living in these cities how miserable they were. They also could have looked at how many suicides per 1,000 people there are in each city. Taking one’s life is a fairly good assessment of how miserable a person is.