Study: Happiest Cities in Oregon

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When it rains, it pours, but if you live in Oregon, you'll find some bright spots no matter what the weather. Portland is Oregon's flagship city and as great a place as it is, it's not the only choice destination to settle down. The Beaver State is packed to the brim with charming little towns that are full of equally charming and cheerful people. If you're planning a move here or you're a current resident, take a look at which cities topped our list as giving their residents the most reasons to be happy.

Study Methodology

We began our study by gathering U.S. Census data and FBI crime statistics for all of Oregon's cities that have a population of 10,000 or higher. The cities that made it to the top 10 had the best overall ranking based on the following seven factors:

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

Seafood is always on the menu in Oregon, and there's nothing better than scarfing down crab legs at your favorite hangout spot. For our first study measure, we looked at the number of restaurants per capita in each city.

The Pacific Northwest isn't exactly a mecca for the criminal element, but we know that every city is different. To see where residents feel the safest, we considered the odds of being the victim of a violent crime for each location on our list.

If your preferred way to get to work is on two wheels, then Portland is the perfect choice. In other cities, however, most people still travel by car,so we checked the average commute times to see where they're the shortest.

Getting up with the sunrise may put you in a better mood if researchers are right. Under this theory, we looked at the percentage of residents in each city who leave for work before 5 a.m.

Thanks to a growing economy, many of Oregon's residents are bringing home some big bucks. If you're curious about where workers are paid the best, check out the median household income for each city.

Another way to measure an area’s happiness is to see how many people have intact marriages. We looked for the lowest percentages of men and women who are divorced in each city.

As far as buying or a renting a home goes, Oregon isn't outrageously expensive. Our final ranking measure is based on the percentage of income residents spend on housing.

10 Happiest Cities in Oregon

10. Central Point

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 829 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 670.4
  • Average commute time: 16.5 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 5.8%
  • Median household income: $47,859
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 8.7% of males, 12% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 27.4%

Central Point is tucked away in the heart of the Rogue Valley, just north of Medford. There are about 17,500 people living in the area and it's especially popular among families. Violent crime doesn't feature regularly in the headlines, and the drive into work isn't too time-consuming. Housing is a little more expensive compared to Medford, but the median income is also several thousand dollars higher.

Did You Know: Central Point is home to Dogs for the Deaf, the world's oldest and largest hearing dog facility.

9. St. Helens

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 369 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1,083.1
  • Average commute time: 33.1 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 9.1%
  • Median household income: $53,151
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 12.8% of males, 12.7% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 24.4%

The city of St. Helens shares its name with the famed volcano, which is up the road in Washington. It made it to the number nine spot for having the highest percentage of residents who leave for work by 5 a.m. The 13,000 people who live here appreciate how safe the city is, and while the average commute takes a little longer, residents are taking home a pretty decent payday.

Did You Know: The popular Disney movie Halloweentown was filmed in St. Helens.

8. Canby

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 484 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 948.3
  • Average commute time: 28.1 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 6.7%
  • Median household income: $57,447
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 7.9% of males, 15.7% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 23.8%

Almost 16,000 people reside in Canby and complaints aren't something you'll hear too often. The streets are safe and neighborhoods are maintained well, with housing costs that are lower compared to the rest of the Portland metro area. You'll spend a little more time on the road getting to work, but the median income of over $57,000 makes it worthwhile.

Did You Know: Canby is the second oldest city in Clackamas County.

7. West Linn

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 595 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 5,114.4
  • Average commute time: 23.3 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2.3%
  • Median household income: $86,611
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 6.3% of males, 11.5% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 24.1%

West Linn is another Portland suburb and new residents are moving in each year to join the almost 26,000 people who already live here. Even though it only made it to seventh place, West Linn took top honors in several categories, with the highest median income, the best divorce rate and an exceptionally good violent crime rate. Not only that, it's got lots of great restaurants.

Did You Know: One of West Linn's most popular events is the annual Ugly Holiday Sweater Dash.

6. Pendleton

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 330 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 444.8
  • Average commute time: 13.7 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 3.4%
  • Median household income: $47,976
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 16.9% of males, 17.9% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 18.3%

Built on the textile industry, Pendleton has burgeoned into a bustling little city of almost 17,000 people. It climbed a little higher in our rankings thanks to its average commute time of just under 14 minutes, which is the shortest overall. You won't part with too much cash for housing and you'll make out okay on payday, with a median income of around $48,000. The Great Pacific Wine & Coffee Company is a top pick whether you're in the mood for a latte or lunch.

Did You Know: Before they became known as The Beach Boys, the famed signing group called themselves The Pendletones after a style of shirt manufactured at the Pendleton Woolen Mills.

5. Lake Oswego

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 392 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1066
  • Average commute time: 22 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2.2%
  • Median household income: $84,186
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 9.9% of males, 14.6% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 23.1%

With over 37,000 residents, Lake Oswego is the most populous city on our list and one of Portland's best suburbs. The superior schools are a big plus for families and the median income of $84,000 is appealing to professionals. Violent crime is infrequent and workers don't have to burn up too much time in traffic each day. Whether you prefer high-end dining or keeping it casual, there's no shortage of places to get together for dinner and drinks.

Did You Know: In the late 1800s, Lake Oswego was considered the hub of Oregon's short-lived iron industry.

4. Keizer

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 802 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 571.7
  • Average commute time: 21.5 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 3.9%
  • Median household income: $51,708
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 8.2% of males, 12.2% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 22.3%

Keizer is located just north of Salem and even though the city is celebrated for its irises, everything's coming up roses for the nearly 37,000 people who live here. As far as income goes, workers earn a generous median salary and getting to work doesn't eat up a huge chunk of their day. Homes are priced a little higher than in the capital city but housing costs are still lower than the metro area as a whole.

Did You Know: Keizer is known as the "Iris Capital of the World."

3. Newport

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 127 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 218.2
  • Average commute time: 14 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 3.2%
  • Median household income: $47,270
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 11.3% of males, 16% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 21.9%

Newport lies along Oregon's coast, between Portland and Eugene. Our third place finisher has the second-best commute time in our study and the best rating for the number of restaurants per capita. Hailed as the Dungeness Crab Capital of the World, you'll find all your seafood favorites at places like Fishtails Cafe and the Chowder Bowl at Nye Beach.

Did You Know: Some of Newport's most visited attractions include the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

2. Tualatin

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 343 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 922.3
  • Average commute time: 21.7 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 3.3%
  • Median household income: $64,330
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 9.7% of males, 14.1% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 23.4%

Its name may be a mouthful but there's a lot to like about Tualatin. At less than 15 miles from Portland, it's an ideal spot for professionals who want to stay close to the big city. It’s also a magnet for young families. The neighborhoods are serene and Tualatin's nearly 27,000 residents shell out less of their income for housing compared to folks who live in Portland, the City of Roses.

Did You Know: The Tualatin Crawfish Festival is one of the city's longest-running annual events.

1. Hermiston

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 450 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 710.8
  • Average commute time: 15 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 8%
  • Median household income: $47,279
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 12.3% of males, 16.3% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 19.3%

The city of Hermiston isn't far from Pendleton, but it managed to beat out its neighbor for the number one spot. Although it didn't rank first in any particular category, it still came out on top based on what it has to offer residents overall. Highlights include the affordable housing in peaceful neighborhoods, an average drive time of 15 minutes flat and a very respectable median income. Restaurants like Hale's and Walker's Farm Kitchen are the icing on the happiness cake.


We know that right now there's probably a horde of hipsters shaking their fists at us, wondering why Portland isn't in the number one spot. While there's no denying its appeal, the 10 cities in our study just had that little something extra that pushed them over the edge.

The Top 20 Happiest Cities in Oregon

RankCityPeople per Restaurants and BarsViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute Time% Leaving Before 5amMedian Household Income% Male Divorce1% Female Divorce1Income Spent on Housing
1Hermiston450.31 in 710.8158.0%$47,27912.3%16.3%19.3%
2Tualatin342.51 in 922.321.73.3%$64,3309.7%14.1%23.4%
3Newport126.81 in 218.2143.2%$47,27011.3%16.0%21.9%
4Keizer802.31 in 571.721.53.9%$51,7088.2%12.2%22.3%
5Lake Oswego392.01 in 1,066.0222.2%$84,1869.9%14.6%23.1%
6Pendleton330.21 in 444.813.73.4%$47,97616.9%17.9%18.3%
7West Linn595.31 in 5,114.423.32.3%$86,6116.3%11.5%24.1%
8Canby484.41 in 948.328.16.7%$57,4477.9%15.7%23.8%
9St. Helens368.91 in 1,083.133.19.1%$53,15112.8%12.7%24.4%
10Central Point829.11 in 670.416.55.8%$47,8598.7%12.0%27.4%
11Woodburn494.31 in 336.023.68.5%$41,8187.1%9.0%24.3%
12Albany498.31 in 1,161.018.13.6%$46,63811.0%15.4%23.7%
13Sherwood417.11 in 1,699.9263.8%$82,2577.8%10.8%26.5%
14The Dalles313.31 in 596.913.91.8%$41,63910.9%15.1%23.4%
15Hillsboro427.51 in 522.924.73.2%$64,9438.0%15.0%23.5%
16Wilsonville320.11 in 2,481.922.53.2%$55,44312.5%18.1%24%
17Tigard319.11 in 736.722.71.7%$62,57611.1%15.3%23.9%
18Dallas378.51 in 510.425.25.5%$48,92511.6%14.4%23.1%
19Beaverton345.81 in 654.4243.2%$56,1239.5%16.5%24.1%
20La Grande352.61 in 599.811.32.3%$36,42413.3%14.7%22.8%

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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