Study: Happiest Cities in Indiana

Read more about Can Money Buy Happiness

Residents of the Hoosier State have a lot to be chipper about, including a cost of living that's well below the national average and one of the country's fastest growing economies. And let's not forget some pretty impressive sports teams.

If you've lived in Indiana for awhile or you're planning a move to the state for the first time, you’ll want to know where people tend to have the brightest outlook on life in this state. We decided to do the hard work for you to find the happiest cities in Indiana.

Study Methodology

We started by rounding up U.S. Census and FBI crime data for the cities with a population of 20,000 or higher. From there, we were able to assign each city a ranking across seven different categories. Our final list includes the places that had the best cumulative ranking based on the following:

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

If you're happy and you know it, you probably like to show it by spending time with friends, coworkers or family members. A lot of people prefer to socialize over drinks or dinner at their favorite dining spot, so we considered the number of restaurants per capita in each city.

Living in an area that's prone to crime can be a major happiness barrier if you're constantly worried about safety. To put your fears to rest, we considered the odds of being the victim of a violent crime for each location in our study.

There's no better way to kill a good mood than to get caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way to work. To pinpoint where residents have the shortest daily drive, we looked at each city's average commute time.

As odd as it sounds, getting up earlier in the morning has actually been linked to increased levels of contentment and a greater sense of fulfillment. We wanted to see which cities have the highest numbers of early risers so we considered what percentage of residents leave for work before 5 a.m.

Studies show that workers who feel valued tend to be happier and more productive, and a nice, fat paycheck at the end of the week is a good way for employers to show their appreciation. If you're wondering how well companies treat their employees in a particular city, take a look at how they ranked based on the median household income.

Saying "I do" is a major commitment. While some couples live happily ever after, others are less fortunate. We looked at divorce rates for men and women in each city to see where marriages tend to last.

More people than ever are renting, but that doesn't necessarily mean that buying a home is the wrong move. The most important thing to consider is which option best fits your budget. With that truth in mind, we ranked each city based on what percentage of income residents are spending on housing.

10 Happiest Cities in Indiana

10. Brownsburg

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 443 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 944.7
  • Average commute time: 25.4 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 3.1%
  • Median household income: $65,221
  • Percentage of divorced residents: 7.7% of males, 13.3% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 20.1%

If you're looking for a safe city with affordable housing that's just a short drive from Indianapolis, Brownsburg is the total package. A little over 22,000 people are glad to call the city home. Some of the things that make it so livable include a higher median income and moderately priced housing. The Boulder Creek Dining Company is one of Brownsburg's top upscale eateries, but if you want to keep it casual, head over to the Green Street Pub for one of the best tenderloin sandwiches in the county.

Did You Know: Scenes from the 1986 film Hoosiers were filmed at Brownsburg High School.

9. Munster

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 478 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 788.6
  • Average commute time: 26.4 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 3.1%
  • Median household income: $70,708
  • Percentage of divorced residents: 8.1% of males, 7.9% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 20%

Munster is located west of Gary, adjacent to the Indiana-Illinois border. This city of just over 23,000 residents ranked well in the income, housing and crime categories, and it also scored the second lowest divorce rate. Average commutes in the city aren't too bad at just over 26 minutes, but if you're headed into Gary or Chicago for work, the ride may take a bit longer.

Did You Know: The Kaske House, also called the Bieker House, is one of Munster's most popular haunted attractions.

8. Hobart

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 316 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 571
  • Average commute time: 27.6 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 7.2%
  • Median household income: $54,468
  • Percentage of divorced residents: 10.3% of males, 11.3% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 21.1%

Hobart sits to the southeast of Gary, not far from the shores of Lake Michigan. If you believe the early bird catches the worm, you'll find you're not alone. Of the city's nearly 29,000 residents, just over 7 percent leave for work before 5 a.m. It may be because the average commute is a little longer, at close to 28 minutes, but the drive is worth it when you consider that housing is fairly inexpensive. There are plenty of places along Main Street to spend a Friday night, but if you're in the mood for Italian, Raydee Magoo's is a good choice.

Did You Know: The Albanese Confectionary in Hobart features the world's tallest chocolate waterfall.

7. Valparaiso

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 311 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1,144.4
  • Average commute time: 23.3 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 5.2%
  • Median household income: $50,182
  • Percentage of divorced residents: 9.8% of males, 13.1% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 21.5%

About 12 miles down the road from Hobart is the slightly larger city of Valparaiso. Best known for being the site of Valparaiso University, it's also home to some pretty happy-go-lucky folks from what we can tell. Violent crime is extremely rare, and getting to work doesn't eat up too much of your day. The median income is a respectable $50,000, and you won't pay a fortune for housing.

Did You Know: Valparaiso University's Chapel of the Resurrection is the largest collegiate chapel in the country.

6. Fishers

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 676 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 5,669.6
  • Average commute time: 26.7 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 1.3%
  • Median household income: $92,552
  • Percentage of divorced residents: 7.2% of males, 11.2% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 18.6%

We head back to the Indianapolis area for the number six city on our list. At almost 82,000 residents, Fishers is the second-largest spot to make the top 10 as well as one of the most populous cities in the state. It scores the second-best rating in several categories, including household income, violent crime and housing costs. There aren't quite as many restaurants compared to some of our other cities, but Yats is a must-try if you've got a craving for Creole specialties.

Did You Know: Upon its completion, the nearby Geist Reservoir was the second-largest man-made lake in the state.

5. Crown Point

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 486 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 3984.3
  • Average commute time: 27 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 4.8%
  • Median household income: $64,876
  • Percentage of divorced residents: 7.6% of males, 12% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 20.3%

Less than 20 miles south of Gary is the city of Crown Point, an upbeat little community of around 28,000 people. When it comes to safety, Crown Point has one of the best violent crime ratings in our study. Residents also fare well when it comes to housing costs. Almost five percent of workers are up and out the door before sunrise, and they bring home a pretty decent payday, with a median income of nearly $65,000.

Did You Know: In the spring of 1923, famed Italian actor Rudolph Valentino married Winifred de Wolfe at the Lake County Courthouse in Crown Point.

4. Columbus

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 402 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 540
  • Average commute time: 17.5 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2.5%
  • Median household income: $52,559
  • Percentage of divorced residents: 12.2% of males, 15.6% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 19.6%

Columbus is a slightly larger city of about 45,000 people, located less than 40 miles from Bloomington. If you're worried about getting to work on time, you'll be pleased to know that residents have the shortest average commute of any city in our rankings. Home prices are a steal and housing will run you less than 20 percent of your income on average. Tre Bicchieri is a cozy spot for enjoying a bottle of wine with friends, but you'll also want to check out the live music at Bistro 310.

Did You Know: Columbus' Crump Theatre is the oldest theater in Indiana.

3. Highland

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 385 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 951.2
  • Average commute time: 24.6 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 5%
  • Median household income: $61,930
  • Percentage of divorced residents: 9.8% of males, 14.1% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 19.1%

When you compare it to its next door neighbor Munster, Highland appears pretty similar in terms of its crime rate, median income and commute time. What set its apart and scored it a higher ranking on our list are its slightly lower housing costs, higher percentage of residents who are up when the rooster crows, and wider variety of places to grab a bite. If you're craving a burger on your lunch break, Miner-Dunn comes highly recommended.

Did You Know: In the late 1800s, Highland was a leading producer of canned cabbage.

2. Goshen

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 377 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 681.6
  • Average commute time: 17.7 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 16.7%
  • Median household income: $41,214
  • Percentage of divorced residents: 10.5% of males, 13.8% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 22.4%

One of the things you'll note right away about Goshen is that a significant percentage of its residents are on the roads bright and early. Part of northern Indiana's Amish country, this city of 32,000 inhabitants has a reputation for being a quiet and easygoing place to live. There are plenty of places to enjoy a meal locally, but if you're looking for a more active nightlife scene, South Bend is only about 25 miles away.

Did You Know: Goshen College is one of only a handful of schools in the U.S. that are affiliated with the Mennonite Church.

1. Carmel

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 648 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 7,438.1
  • Average commute time: 24.7 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 1%
  • Median household income: $107,505
  • Percentage of divorced residents: 5.9% of males, 8.7% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 17.3%

At close to 84,000 residents, Carmel, the largest city in our study, is one of the Indianapolis area's busiest suburbs. If you're wondering why the people who live here are in such high spirits, it's probably because they have the lowest divorce rate in our rankings, spend the least amount of their income on housing and earn the biggest median paycheck, at nearly $108,000. The Arts and Design District is where you'll find an eclectic mix of places to satisfy your appetite, like Woody's Library and The Pint Room.

Did You Know: In 2012, CNN Money named Carmel the #1 Place to Live in America.


To be sure, these cities are a diverse bunch, but they have something in common when it comes to how satisfied their residents seem to be overall. If you're wondering why your hometown didn't make the list, don't feel down in the dumps. When it comes to how we determined our rankings, the final 10 just had the edge based on the seven factors we considered.

The Top 15 Happiest Cities in Indiana

RankCityPeople per Restaurants and BarsViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute Time% Leaving Before 5amMedian Household Income% Male Divorce1% Female Divorce1Income Spent on Housing
1Carmel647.81 in 7,438.124.71.0%$107,5055.9%8.7%17.3%
2Goshen377.21 in 681.617.716.7%$41,21410.5%13.8%22.4%
3Highland384.61 in 951.224.65.0%$61,9309.8%14.1%19.1%
4Columbus402.01 in 540.017.52.5%$52,55912.2%15.6%19.6%
5Crown Point485.71 in 3,984.3274.8%$64,8767.6%12.0%20.3%
6Fishers676.31 in 5,669.626.71.3%$92,5527.2%11.2%18.6%
7Valparaiso310.81 in 1,144.423.35.2%$50,1829.8%13.1%21.5%
8Hobart315.81 in 571.027.67.2%$54,46810.3%11.3%21.1%
9Munster477.81 in 788.626.43.1%$70,7088.1%7.9%20%
10Brownsburg443.21 in 944.725.43.1%$65,2217.7%13.3%20.1%
11Fort Wayne444.21 in 275.619.73.7%$44,59910.9%14.3%19.6%
12Greenwood373.41 in 270.925.85.0%$55,60011.4%15.1%20.8%
13Plainfield435.11 in 512.123.62.7%$56,78112.8%13.6%20.9%
14La Porte283.31 in 789.418.56.4%$36,90311.5%15.5%23.5%
15Jeffersonville681.71 in 104.721.43.5%$50,77413.8%18.0%20%

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)

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Comments about Study: Happiest Cities in Indiana

  • Bethany
    on October 30, 2014 8:52 AM said:

    Angola/Fremont IN need to be on the list! It is absolutely beautiful. The county has 101 lake, great restaurants and bars. It also it is home to Pokagon State Park and the toboggan slide, and many beautiful nature parks and trails. It has a great university with many wonderful minors, bachelors, masters, and Doctorates to choose from! I just cant believe its not on the list! It is such a great place!

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