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America's Most Miserable Cities

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So who is to blame and what needs to be done to get these cities off this list? Also, do lists such as this make the situation only worse?


Rankings are based on the 150 largest metro areas.

1. Detroit, Mich.

Commute times 80

Income tax rates 87

Superfund sites 135

Unemployment 149

Violent crimes 150

Weather 95

Misery Measure 696

Motown is the worst in the country when it comes to violent crime, with an annual rate of 1,251 crimes for every 100,000 residents. Unemployment in the area is below the double-digit rates it hit in the early 1990s, but at 8.5% over the past three years, it is still the second-highest in the country among the 150 largest metro areas.

2. Stockton, Calif.

Commute times 135

Income tax rates 130

Superfund sites 116

Unemployment 144

Violent crimes 146

Weather 18

Misery Measure 689

The population of the Stockton metro area soared 28% over the past 10 years as people looked for affordable options to the pricey Bay Area. The population flow helped home prices jump 158% between 2000 and 2005, but they have fallen the past two years, as Stockton has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country.

3. Flint, Mich.

Commute times 83

Income tax rates 64

Superfund sites 116

Unemployment 146

Violent crimes 143

Weather 123

Misery Measure 675

Flint's decline has corresponded with the downturn in the U.S. auto industry. The Flint metro area has experienced a net migration out of Flint every year but one since 1990. One upshot of living in Flint is cheap housing. The median home price was only $104,000 last year, according to Moody's Economy.com.

4. New York, N.Y.

Commute times 150

Income tax rates 150

Superfund sites 78

Unemployment 99

Violent crimes 105

Weather 86

Misery Measure 668

The Big Apple is the nation's center for financial services, publishing, advertising and countless other industries, making job opportunities plentiful. But the costs can make all but the super-wealthy miserable. Housing costs are through the roof, and income tax rates are 10.5%, more than twice the U.S. average. Commuting times are also the worst, at an average of 36 minutes each way.

5. Philadelphia, Pa.

Commute times 132

Income tax rates 102

Superfund sites 135

Unemployment 81

Violent crimes 134

Weather 64

Misery Measure 648

How miserable is Philly? The residents of the City of Brotherly Love once booed Santa Claus and pelted him with snowballs at an Eagles game. Maybe it's the long commutes, violent crime and plethora of toxic waste sites that has people grumpy. Philadelphia scored in the top 20 in all three areas.

6. Chicago, Ill.

Commute times 144

Income tax rates 35

Superfund sites 107

Unemployment 108

Violent crimes 118

Weather 122

Misery Measure 634

Residents of the country's third-largest metro face long commutes (31 minutes on average) and high violent crime rates (619 crimes per 100,000 residents). Another chief complaint: the bitter-cold winters. And as for misery, nothing tops being a Cubs fan. The team has not won a World Series since 1908, the longest winless streak in baseball.

7. Los Angeles, Calif.

Commute times 132

Income tax rates 130

Superfund sites 135

Unemployment 102

Violent crimes 126

Weather 7

Misery Measure 632

In sunny L.A., the weather is almost perfect. Everything else, not so perfect. If you are not stuck in traffic or forking over your earnings to put a dent in the state's massive budget deficit, chances are, you are choking on the city's polluted air.

8. Modesto, Calif.

Commute times 112

Income tax rates 130

Superfund sites 109

Unemployment 147

Violent crimes 116

Weather 17

Misery Measure 631

George Lucas of Star Wars fame was born in Modesto, and one of his first movies, American Graffiti, was about teenagers cruising the streets of Modesto at night. Modesto could use some of Lucas' $3.9 billion fortune, as unemployment was an unseemly 8.7% in 2007. Of course, that is down from the early 1990s, when it topped 15%.

9. Charlotte, N.C.

Commute times 96

Income tax rates 107

Superfund sites 97

Unemployment 97

Violent crimes 140

Weather 88

Misery Measure 625

Charlotte ranked in the bottom 50% of all six categories that we examined. Its worst showing was in violent crimes (838 crimes per 100,000 residents). As home to banking giants Bank of America and Wachovia, Charlotte could see an uptick in unemployment, thanks to the problems at those banks.

10. Providence, R.I.

Commute times 69

Income tax rates 149

Superfund sites 111

Unemployment 121

Violent crimes 51

Weather 110

Misery Measure 611

Only New York City fares worst than Providence when it comes to income tax rates. The top rate for all of Rhode Island is 9.9%. Residents are fleeing the area, with a net migration of 20,000 out of the area over the past four years.

Sources: Bert Sperling; Moody's Economy.com; U.S. Census Bureau

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