Study: Happiest Cities in New York

Read more about Can Money Buy Happiness

High incomes, a diverse population, and feeling like you're at the center of the universe combine as just a few reasons those who live in the Empire State feel happy about where they reside. The happiest New Yorkers are those who live in certain cities, which CreditDonkey has determined give residents the most reasons to smile about. We have ranked them from 1 to 10 on our list of the happiest cities in New York.

New Yorkers wonder why they would live anywhere else. They feel like they have the world at their fingertips — from the shops and job opportunities in New York City to the wonder of Niagara Falls and the chance to get away from it all in the Adirondacks. High incomes, a diverse population, and feeling like you’re at the center of the universe combine as just a few reasons those who live in the Empire State feel happy about where they live.

Certain cities in New York give residents more reasons to be happy than others. CreditDonkey considered a range of factors to come up with the happiest cities in this state. Take a look to find your happy place.

Study Methodology

To find the 10 happiest cities in New York, we started by collecting U.S. Census and FBI crime data for those locations that have a population of 25,000 or higher. Each city was assigned a ranking in one of seven categories. Our final list includes those cities that got the best rating all-around, based on the following:

  1. Restaurants
  2. Crime rate
  3. Commute
  4. Departure time
  5. Income
  6. Divorce rate
  7. Housing

One thing that happy people tend to have in common is a strong network of friends and family. If you're looking to make new connections or spend time with your inner circle, you might want to head out for dinner or drinks. The first thing we considered for each city was the number of restaurants per capita as a measure of how easy it is to socialize.

How safe you feel living in a particular area can influence how happy you are with your choice of hometown. To find those places that are the safest, each city's ranking is also determined by the odds of being the victim of a violent crime.

Being stuck in traffic can turn even the most cheerful person into a major grump. We considered the average commute time to find out which cities have the shortest drive to work.

Studies have linked getting up early to higher levels of personal and professional satisfaction. We looked at the percentage of people in each city who leave for work before 5 a.m. as a measure of where workers are most fulfilled.

Money can't buy you happiness but it can make a difference in how financially stressed you feel. We ranked each city based in part on the median household income to see where residents are earning the most.

Getting married is a life-changing event, and it can significantly increase your happiness factor. Getting divorced, on the other hand, can be a real downer. We looked at the percentage of men and women in each city who are divorced to see where couples have the best odds of maintaining marital harmony.

Owning a home is the American dream, but it can turn into a nightmare if housing costs are eating up a big chunk of your budget. The last thing we considered is the percentage of income spent on housing in each city to see where residents have the lowest burden.

10 Happiest Cities in New York

10. Newburgh

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 326 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 53.6
  • Average commute time: 22.7 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 6.6%
  • Median household income: $36,077
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 9% of males, 7.4% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 37.3%

One of the things you'll notice right off the bat about Newburgh is that people here like to get up early. The city has the highest percentage of people leaving for work before 5 a.m., at 6.6%. The daily drive isn't too bad on average, and the median income's not too shabby either. Divorce rates for both men and women are under 10%. And there are lots of places where you can unwind, like The Wherehouse and Chill Wine Bar.

Did You Know: Newburgh is less than 15 miles from West Point.

9. Ithaca

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 205 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 464.9
  • Average commute time: 14.5 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 0.9%
  • Median household income: $29,230
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 4.2% of males, 6.5% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 40.3%

Ithaca residents won't have to worry about a traffic jam ruining their day; they enjoy the shortest average commute on our list, clocking in at 14.5 minutes. The city has a pretty good violent crime rate and the lowest overall divorce rate in our rankings. The Carriage House Cafe is a great choice for brunch after a late night out, but if you want to share some tapas with friends, Just a Taste is a local favorite.

Did You Know: Many people view college as the happiest time of their life. In this city, you can see if that’s true based on the faces of students going to Cornell University and Ithaca College.

8. Binghamton

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 333 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 150
  • Average commute time: 16.9 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 4.7%
  • Median household income: $30,179
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 8.7 % of males, 14.5% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 27%

Binghamton's another spot that seems to be popular with early risers, as nearly 5% of workers are out the door before 5 a.m. Getting to work isn't too stressful, with an average commute of just under 17 minutes and the existence of Chris' Diner nearby for a quick lunch with coworkers. Residents spend a little over a quarter of their pay for housing on average, and median home prices are a bargain.

Did You Know: Binghamton's Twilight Zone Museum honors native son and show creator Rod Serling.

7. Ossining

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 616 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 618.7
  • Average commute time: 27 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2.5%
  • Median household income: $68,117
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 7.9% of males, 9.5% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 28.3%

If safety's a priority, you'll feel right at home in Ossining. It has one of the better violent crime rates in our study and it also scores high marks in the income category. Residents take home a median pay of just over $68,000, and the daily commute takes less than 30 minutes on average. There are fewer restaurants to choose from compared to some of our other cities, but The Boathouse is renowned for its delicious cuisine and scenic views of the Hudson.

Did You Know: One-time Ossining resident John Cheever based the setting for his 1977 novel Falconer on the nearby Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

6. White Plains

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 307 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 625.7
  • Average commute time: 26.7 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 1.2%
  • Median household income: $75,254
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 6.5% of males, 11.3% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 26.6%

White Plains residents have a lot to smile about, especially when it comes to their paychecks. The city has the best ranking for income, with workers earning a median annual salary of over $75,000. It's also one of the safer cities in our study, and divorce is less common compared to some of the other spots we've profiled. For a good time, Elements draws a big crowd for happy hour and dinner and Manhattan's nightlife is only about 30 miles away.

Did You Know: Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg was born in White Plains in 1984.

5. Albany

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 250 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 122.4
  • Average commute time: 18.6 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2%
  • Median household income: $40,145
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 6.3% males, 9.1% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 27.3%

Close to 100,000 people live in Albany and based on what our study uncovered, they seem to be some pretty happy folks. It could be because the drive to work averages less than 20 minutes or the fact that divorce seems to be relatively rare. Residents spend about 27% of their income on housing, and there are lots of places to whet your whistle or your appetite, like the swanky Cafe Capriccio.

Did You Know: The state capitol building in Albany took over 30 years to build and cost more than $25 million.

4. North Tonawanda

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 558 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 586.5
  • Average commute time: 20.1 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2%
  • Median household income: $46,538
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 12.4% of males, 11.7% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 19.6%

If saving money gives you a warm fuzzy feeling, you'll love North Tonawanda. Housing is a steal and the city takes top honors when it comes to the percentage of income residents spend to keep a roof over their heads (the median income is a respectable $46,000). Another plus: the violent crime is less lower than in some of the other cities on our list. Crazy Jakes is where locals go for live music and craft beer while Good Guys' Pizza is the best place to grab a slice.

Did You Know: During the construction of the Erie Canal, North Tonawanda was the largest port on the Great Lakes.

3. Auburn

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 311 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 308.2
  • Average commute time: 16.1 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 5%
  • Median household income: $38,321
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 10.5% of males, 14.5% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 22.2%

Auburn rates well across each of our categories, grabbing the second-best ranking for both average commute and the percentage of workers who head to the office before 5 a.m. Even though the median household income is a little lower than what residents in other cities bring in, housing costs won't break the bank. Swaby's Tavern is a cozy spot for relaxing over cocktails or chowing down on classic pub fare.

Did You Know: The former home of abolitionist and suffragist Harriett Tubman is one of Auburn's most noted historic attractions.

2. Rome

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 421 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 735.7
  • Average commute time: 17.5 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2.9%
  • Median household income: $44,220
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 11.7% of males, 13.9% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 20.4%

Rome comes in at number two on our list, earning the second best rating for both violent crime and housing costs. Almost 3% of residents are up and at 'em before sunrise, and they're rewarded for their efforts with a $44,000 median annual income. Getting to work won't eat up a lot of your time, and if you're looking for a place to kickstart the weekend, The Mill gets rave reviews.

Did You Know: Originally born in Ithaca, Roots author Alex Haley once lived in Rome.

1. Saratoga Springs

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 200 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1,033.5
  • Average commute time: 21.9 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2.2%
  • Median household income: $62,766
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 7.3% of males, 11% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 22.2%

What makes residents of Saratoga Springs so darn happy? A lot of things, starting with an extremely low violent crime rate and a median household income of nearly $63,000. It also doesn't hurt that the average commute takes under 22 minutes and housing is reasonably priced. Add in a relatively low divorce rate and over 100 dining spots and you've got a recipe for a pretty content population.

Did You Know: According to local historians, the potato chip was invented by Saratoga Springs chef George Crum in 1853.


You're probably aware that the Big Apple didn't snag a spot on our list, but it doesn't mean New York City residents are singing the blues. When it came down to the seven criteria we used to gauge satisfaction levels, the cities that landed in our top 10 are simply the ones that seem to be the happiest overall.

The Top 10 Happiest Cities in New York

RankCityPeople per Restaurants and BarsViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute Time% Leaving Before 5amMedian Household Income% Male Divorce1% Female Divorce1Income Spent on Housing
1Saratoga Springs199.71 in 1,033.521.92.2%$62,7667.3%11.0%22.2%
2Rome421.01 in 735.717.52.9%$44,22011.7%13.9%20.4%
3Auburn311.01 in 308.216.15.0%$38,32110.5%14.5%22.2%
4North Tonawanda558.41 in 586.520.12.0%$46,53812.4%11.7%19.6%
5Albany250.41 in 122.418.62.0%$40,1456.3%9.1%27.3%
6White Plains307.01 in 625.726.71.2%$75,2546.5%11.3%26.6%
7Ossining616.21 in 618.7272.5%$68,1177.9%9.5%28.3%
8Binghamton332.51 in 150.016.94.7%$30,1798.7%14.5%27%
9Ithaca204.91 in 464.914.50.9%$29,2304.2%6.5%40.3%
10Newburgh325.61 in 53.622.76.6%$36,0779.0%7.4%37.3%

1Treated as one combined metric for ranking purposes (at a 50:50 male to female ratio).

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Write to Rebecca Lake at rebecca@creditdonkey.com. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped consumers make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

More from CreditDonkey:

Can money buy happiness?

Can Money Buy Happiness?


Stress Statistics

Infographic: Love and Marriage

Marriage Statistics



Leave a comment about Study: Happiest Cities in New York?

Name
Email (won't be published)







About CreditDonkey®
CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website. We publish data-driven analysis to help you save money & make savvy financial decisions.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

†Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which CreditDonkey receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CreditDonkey does not include all companies or all offers that may be available in the marketplace.

*See the card issuer's online application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However, all information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button you can review the terms and conditions on the card issuer's website.

CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.