Study: Happiest Cities in Massachusetts

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In a state known nationwide for cranky attitudes, you would think it would be hard to find happy places in Massachusetts. But the fact is residents in the Bay State love where they live, not just for the history, the access to the ocean, and the variety of weather patterns, but they're proud of it as well. The CreditDonkey team has pinned down which cities are the happiest in Massachusetts with this list.

Study Methodology

We decided to focus our study on those Massachusetts cities that had a population of 15,000 or higher. Using U.S. Census and FBI crime data, we were able to assign each city a ranking, and the top 10 are the ones that had the best cumulative score based on the following:

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

We know that for many people, there's no better way to connect with friends or family than gathering around the dinner table for a delicious meal. The first factor we considered when determining our rankings is the number of restaurants per capita.

When you feel safe at home or out and about, it's likely to influence your attitude towards where you live. If you're wondering which cities on our list are the least danger-prone, check out how they rank based on the odds of being the victim of a violent crime.

The last thing you want to deal with on the way to work is heavy traffic, and not being stuck in gridlock can certainly add a smile to your face. We looked at each city's average commute time to get a feel for what workers in each city can expect.

Not everyone is a morning person, but the ones who are may have a slight advantage in the happiness department. Studies have suggested that getting up earlier makes for a better day, so we decided to see where residents are most likely to leave for work before 5 a.m.

When you're pulling in big bucks, it can make rolling out of bed in the morning less of a chore. To see which cities have the highest-paid workers, we considered the median household income.

Marriage is a major commitment and tying the knot is meant to be a joyous occasion. In some cases, however, the honeymoon doesn't last. We wanted to see how well couples are getting along, so we looked at the percentage of men and women in each city who are divorced.

Whether you've made the leap into home ownership or you're comfortable with being a renter, the cost can be a headache if it eats up too much of your budget. We considered the percentage of income residents spend on housing in each city as our final study measure.

10 Happiest Cities in Massachusetts

10. Leominster

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 441 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 152.3
  • Average commute time: 26 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 3.9%
  • Median household income: $59,604
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 10.6% of males, 12.3% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 21.1%

The city of Leominster made our top 10 thanks to its nearly $60,000 median income and affordable housing costs. Almost 41,000 people make their home here, and we'd say they're some satisfied folks based on the numbers. Nearly 4% of residents start their day early and it takes less than 30 minutes on average to make it to work. If you've got a hankering for classic Italian cuisine, Cristina's comes highly recommended by locals.

Did You Know: Leominster has many claims to fame, including being the birthplace of both Johnny Appleseed and pink flamingo lawn ornaments.

9. Cambridge

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 283 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 248.2
  • Average commute time: 24.7 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 1.2%
  • Median household income: $72,225
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 4.9% of males, 9.6% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 27.3%

From what we can see, the more than 106,000 people who reside in the city of Cambridge have plenty to be happy about. Divorce isn't as common compared to some of the other cities in our study, and the median income is in the higher range, at just over $72,000. If you're looking for a great place to gather with friends and enjoy a delicious meal, Bondir serves up flavor and freshness in equal parts.

Did You Know: Some of the scenes in Good Will Hunting – the movie where Robin Williams accuses Matt Damon’s character of not knowing “what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy” — took place and were actually filmed in Cambridge, including Harvard Square.

8. Beverly

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 357 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 483.7
  • Average commute time: 25.8 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2.2%
  • Median household income: $67,958
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 8.9% of males, 10.3% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 24.8%

What is it that makes Beverly such a pleasant place? If you ask the 40,000 people who live here, they may tell you it's because of how safe the neighborhoods are and the fact the morning drive takes less than 26 minutes on average. Workers are on the receiving end of a pretty generous payday, and they spend less than a quarter of their income on housing. Eateries like Soma and Hale Street Tavern round out the reasons why Beverly is so agreeable.

Did You Know: The happiest times are vacation times. President William Howard Taft and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. both owned summer homes in Beverly.

7. Marlborough

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 297 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 335.4
  • Average commute time: 26.8 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2.4%
  • Median household income: $70,849
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 9.9% of males, 11.3% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 22.4%

Coming in at number seven on our list is Marlborough, a city of about 39,000 people just over 30 miles from Boston. Residents have all the amenities they could want inside their city confines, including a big sports center, a mall, and an active downtown area. And they have a $70,000 median income. The average commute is a little longer compared to some of our other cities, but you can still make it to the office in less than 30 minutes and even less if you live near one of the companies headquartered here, like Boston Scientific. Housing prices are much lower versus the rest of the metro area, something your wallet is sure to appreciate.

Did You Know: Marlborough's most notable historic fixture is the John Brown Bell, reportedly taken from the firehouse where the anti-slavery crusader was captured in 1859.

6. Gloucester

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 275 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1,084.1
  • Average commute time: 24.3 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 3.3%
  • Median household income: $62,059
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 10% of males, 11.9% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 24.3%

Gloucester is located along Cape Ann in the North Shore region, and it's a breath of fresh sea air for the 29,000 or so people who call it home. You won't have to worry too much about crime here and the average drive to work isn't too taxing on your time. Locals earn a median income of about $62,000 and they spend about a quarter of that on housing, which isn't too bad considering the fantastic oceanfront views many residents enjoy.

Did You Know: The Norman's Woe rock reef formation is the site of a number of shipwrecks. It also serves as the fictional setting for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Wreck of the Hesperus.

5. Peabody

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 447 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 430.7
  • Average commute time: 25.2 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 4.1%
  • Median household income: $67,052
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 7.7% of males, 11.7% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 24%

Peabody isn't too far away from Beverly and it shares in the smaller city's positive vibes. Close to 52,000 people have homes here and they make out pretty well in terms of the median income, the amount they spend on housing, and the average commute time. If you're looking for a place to have a relaxed dinner with friends, Petrillo's is the go-to spot for authentic Italian specialties.

Did You Know: The city is named for George Peabody, who founded Britain's Peabody Trust and the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

4. Waltham

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 238 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 422.8
  • Average commute time: 24.2 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 1.6%
  • Median household income: $72,332
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 6.4% of males, 8.4% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 25.2%

Waltham sits less than 15 miles west of Boston. It's a great spot for families and working professionals who want job opportunities in Boston or along the highway of this city. In addition to their easy access to jobs, the city's nearly 62,000 residents enjoy a moderately low violent crime rate. In addition, they take home a respectable payday of around $72,000. On average, workers spend about 24 minutes in traffic and shell out around 25% of their income for housing. And they have access to a range of restaurants on Moody Street.

Did You Know: Waltham is the home of Brandeis University, whose notable alumni include author Mitch Albom and actress Debra Messing.

3. Newton

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 505 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1,140.9
  • Average commute time: 26.4 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 1%
  • Median household income: $113,416
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 4.9% of males, 7.9% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 20.7%

Newton is one of Boston's oldest suburbs, and the 86,000 people who live here are over the moon about their choice of hometown. Residents have the most reasons to be happy on payday. They bring in a median income of over $113,000, and they spend right around a fifth of that on housing. Newton's well-maintained neighborhoods have a reputation for safety and the local dining scene offers an eclectic blend of American and international flavors.

Did You Know: Newton is one of the cities that makes up the Boston Marathon's 26-mile route.

2. Woburn

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 423 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 404.8
  • Average commute time: 24.2 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2.5%
  • Median household income: $72,434
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 6.9% of males, 11.5% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 23.2%

Head northwest out of Boston and eventually you'll come to the smaller city of Woburn, which earned a second place spot on our happiness list. Though it doesn't take first place in any particular category, this city of nearly 39,000 people got great marks all around for its violent crime rate, average commute time and employee wages. It also doesn't hurt that home prices are significantly lower compared to other suburban cities in the metro area.

Did You Know: The Massachusetts Rifle Association, known as America's oldest active gun club, has been located in Woburn since 1876.

1. Westfield

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 567 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 545.9
  • Average commute time: 23.4 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 4.5%
  • Median household income: $57,018
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 8.3% of males, 11.4% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 21.2%

The city of Westfield, which sits near Springfield in the western part of the state, has definitely earned the seal of approval from its 41,000 residents. Around 4.5% of workers begin their day before 5 a.m., the highest percentage in our study, and they have the shortest drive time, clocking in at just over 23 minutes. Crime isn't something people contend with too often and housing prices are fairly moderate, based on the $57,000 median income. At the end of the day, you can unwind at places like Santiago's, which serves some of the best empanadas around.


Obviously, you'll notice that Boston didn't land a spot on our list, but it's not because residents there aren't thrilled about living in Beantown. The 10 cities that made our rankings just had the edge when it comes to how they rated across all seven of our study categories.

The Top 10 Happiest Cities in Massachusetts

RankCityPeople per Restaurants and BarsViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute Time% Leaving Before 5amMedian Household Income% Male Divorce1% Female Divorce1Income Spent on Housing
1Westfield567.11 in 545.923.44.5%$57,0188.3%11.4%21.2%
2Woburn423.41 in 404.824.22.5%$72,4346.9%11.5%23.2%
3Newton504.71 in 1,140.926.41.0%$113,4164.9%7.9%20.7%
4Waltham238.11 in 422.824.21.6%$72,3326.4%8.4%25.2%
5Peabody447.11 in 430.725.24.1%$67,0527.7%11.7%24%
6Gloucester275.41 in 1,084.124.33.3%$62,05910.0%11.9%24.3%
7Marlborough297.01 in 335.426.82.4%$70,8499.9%11.3%22.4%
8Beverly356.51 in 483.725.82.2%$67,9588.9%10.3%24.8%
9Cambridge283.21 in 248.224.71.2%$72,2254.9%9.6%27.3%
10Leominster440.71 in 152.3263.9%$59,60410.6%12.3%21.1%

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 reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at rebecca@creditdonkey.com

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