Lincoln, Neb. residents are close to unanimous in saying they are satisfied with the city or area where they live, according to 2010 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data, with 96.7% responding this way, the highest proportion across 188 US metropolitan areas. Conversely, at the other end of the metro satisfaction list, only about three-fourths of residents in Arizona’s Lake Havasu City-Kingman area (74.1%) and in Stockton, Calif., (75%) are satisfied.
Well-Being Index data indicates residents’ likelihood to be satisfied with their city or area is significantly related to the area’s average income level. Household income estimates for 2010 indicate the median figure among the 10 metro areas with the highest percentage of satisfied residents is $71,250, almost 30% higher than the median $55,000 among the 10 metro areas with the lowest percentage of satisfied residents.
However, a metro area’s relative affluence is not a perfect indicator of how satisfied its residents are likely to be. For example, the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark., area, with a median household income of $59,100, is on the most satisfied list, while residents of the Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY area, with a median income of $63,700, are among the least likely to be satisfied with their city or area.
The presence of stable sources of employment is another key factor in metro satisfaction. Half of the metro areas on the most satisfied list: Lincoln; Austin, TX; Madison, Wis.; Raleigh-Cary, NC; and Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, are state capitals with major universities. Gallup identifies both of these as factors that help cushion employment rates during tough economic times.
Using government figures for January 2011, the median unemployment rate among the 10 metro areas with the highest percentage of satisfied residents was 8%, about 18% lower than the January 2011 national figure of 9.8%. Again, Lincoln’s rate was the lowest in the country in January, at 4.1%.
Meanwhile, several of the metro areas on the least satisfied list, including Toledo, Ohio; Binghamton, N.Y.; Buffalo-Niagara Falls; and Flint, Mich., are identified by Gallup as having seen their large manufacturing sectors decline in recent decades and now working to establish new sources of growth. Among the 10 metro areas with the lowest percentage of satisfied residents, the median unemployment rate is 10.6%, 8% higher than the January 2011 national average. Topping the list is the Lake Havasu City-Kingman area, where the rate is 11.5%.
Residents of the metro areas surveyed were also asked whether they think their city or area is getting better or getting worse as a place to live. Among all 188 metro areas, a median 56.4% of residents said things were getting better. These figures spanned a broad range, however, from more than two-thirds of residents in the top 10 most optimistic cities to well less than half in cities on the least optimistic list.
Boulder, CO, had the highest Well-Being Index score (73.7) in the US across the 188 metropolitan areas that Gallup and Healthways surveyed in 2010. Lincoln, NB; Fort Collins-Loveland, CO; Provo-Orem, UT; and Honolulu, HI round out the top five metro areas with the highest well-being scores.
About the Data: Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey Jan. 2-Dec. 29, 2010, with a random sample of 245,817 adults, aged 18 and older, living in reportable metropolitan statistical areas in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
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