Study: Happiest Cities in Texas

Read more about Can Money Buy Happiness

What makes most Texans happy? Here's the short list: mouth-watering barbecue, simplified living, and football. They would also be happy if they had a decent commute and they don't have to forfeit the majority of their paycheck toward their housing costs. We looked around this enormous state to find where these factors are plentiful and where Texans have the highest likelihood for a happy life. We started with restaurants options and made our way through housing costs to find the 10 cities where residents have a lot of reasons to be happy.

Study Methodology

Using U.S. Census and FBI data for places with a population of 50,000 or higher, we ranked each city on the seven categories listed below:

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

Some people are comfortable flying solo, but others are happiest when they're hanging out with friends and family. If you're the type who likes to socialize over drinks or a good meal, check out how each city ranks for the number of restaurants per capita.

If you're constantly worried about your wellbeing, it can quickly drain your joy, no matter how upbeat you are. To gauge how safe each city is, we looked at the odds of being the victim of a violent crime.

Nothing can ruin your good mood faster than a major traffic jam on the way to work. We know that your time is important, so we considered the average commute for each city on our list.

Researchers believe that getting up earlier can significantly boost your happiness levels and increase your productivity. We decided to test that theory by looking at what percentage of residents leave for work before 5 in the morning.

Feeling financially secure can contribute to a more positive outlook on life, especially if you're paid well to do a job you love. Each city in our study is ranked based in part on the median household income workers pull in.

Getting married is fairly easy but staying married is the real challenge. To get an idea of how well each city ranks in terms of marital satisfaction, we looked at the percentage of men and women who are divorced.

Lastly, we considered the percentage of income residents spend on housing. Owning a home is a major financial milestone, but it can lead to increased stress levels if you've got more house than you can afford.

10 Happiest Cities in Texas

10. Frisco

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 745 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1,257.2
  • Average commute time: 27.8 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 1.7%
  • Median household income: $108,428
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 6.2% of males, 10.6% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 20.5%

Frisco is a booming suburb just north of Dallas, and its 128,000 residents have lots to be happy about. It's one of the safest cities in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, and workers take home a pretty impressive payday, with a median income of over $108,000. Home prices are a little higher compared to neighboring suburbs, but residents spend only about a fifth of their income for housing on average.

Did You Know: Frisco was named in honor of the St. Louis-San Francisco rail line that led to the city's founding.

9. League City

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 1,116 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1,090.2
  • Average commute time: 28.9 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 4.6%
  • Median household income: $88,289
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 8.9% of males, 12.1% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 20.9%

League City sits along the Galveston Bay, about 30 miles northwest of the city of Galveston. Almost 5% of workers have to wake up early, and those workers are extra happy considering that the median income approaches $90,000. Home prices are fairly moderate, and there are a number of safe neighborhoods to choose from. League City's got some great places to grab a bite, such as the Main St. Bistro, which is perfect for a Sunday brunch gathering.

Did You Know: League City is the third largest boating anchorage in the U.S.

8. Plano

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 480 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 764.8
  • Average commute time: 25.6 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 1.9%
  • Median household income: $83,193
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 7.1% of males, 12% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 20.2%

Plano is one of the largest cities in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area on our list, with more than 272,000 residents. Overall, we think that people who live here are pretty pleased, based on how safe the city is, median household incomes and housing costs. The combined divorce rate for men and women is also lower than several of the other cities in our study, so it looks like couples are living happily ever after for the most part.

Did You Know: The annual Plano Balloon Festival is one of the city's most widely attended events.

7. Richardson

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 423 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 603.9
  • Average commute time: 23.6 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2.3%
  • Median household income: $68,806
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 7.3% of males, 11.4% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 21.1%

With just over 103,000 residents, Richardson is quite a bit smaller than neighboring Plano, but size doesn't matter when it comes to how contented people are here. Homes sell for quite a bit less compared to other Dallas suburbs and median incomes are still pretty healthy, at close to $69,000. The daily commute is reasonable, at just under 24 minutes, and you'll find plenty of places to unwind at the end of a long day.

Did You Know: Richardson is nicknamed "The Telecom Corridor" because of its high concentration of tech and telecommunications companies.

6. Allen

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 854 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1,614.2
  • Average commute time: 27.4 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2.2%
  • Median household income: $101,966
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 6.8% of males, 11.7% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 19.8%

If you ask Allen residents what they love about their hometown, income and safety are likely to be at the top of the list. When it comes to violent crime, Allen has one of the best ratings on our list, and a median income of nearly $102,000 is definitely something to write home about. The local dining scene features an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars and lounges, like Spazo and the Savour Tasting Room & Social Club.

Did You Know: The first train robbery in Texas took place in Allen on February 22, 1878.

5. Flower Mound

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 692 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 3,239.2
  • Average commute time: 28.6 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 1.3%
  • Median household income: $118,725
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 6.3% of males, 9% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 20.3%

Folks in Flower Mound are all smiles - and for good reason. Not only do residents live in one of the state's safest cities, but they also hit the jackpot when it comes to median incomes. Divorce rates are among the lowest in our rankings. And you won't go broke trying to pay for a home. The drive to work takes a little longer on average, but if you're part of the 1.3% who's out the door early, you may have a better shot at beating traffic.

Did You Know: Flower Mound is named after a 12.5-acre, 50-foot high piece of land where dozens of wildflower varieties bloom each spring.

4. Odessa

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 544 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 94
  • Average commute time: 17.8 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 4.4%
  • Median household income: $51,251
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 11.7% of males, 13.8% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 17.7%

About 106,000 people call Odessa home, and it's got a lot of positives that make their lives here enjoyable. It has one of the shorter average commutes, at just under 18 minutes, and a good number of residents are up and on the go before 5 a.m. Perhaps one of its biggest selling points is the fact that workers spend an average of less than 18% of their income on housing.

Did You Know: Odessa is where you can see the second largest meteor crater in the country.

3. Wichita Falls

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 465 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 222.1
  • Average commute time: 14.7 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 4.8%
  • Median household income: $44,390
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 10.7% of males, 13% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 20.7%

Wichita Falls takes top honors in two different categories: the shortest average commute and the highest percentage of workers leaving home at the crack of dawn. It's definitely a worthy choice if you're looking for affordable housing and a decent paycheck. The divorce and crime rates are slightly higher compared to some of the other places on our list, but it's still a good alternative to a larger city like Dallas, which is about 140 miles away.

Did You Know: The 40-foot tall Newby-McMahon building in downtown Wichita Falls is known locally as the "World's Smallest Skyscraper."

2. Sugar Land

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 356 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 760.8
  • Average commute time: 28.5 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2.3%
  • Median household income: $107,149
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 5.2% of males, 8.3% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 18.9%

Sugar Land is one of the few cities in our study that isn't part of the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area, but you won't hear its residents complaining. It ranks first overall for the number of restaurants per capita and there's something for every palate, from Chinese to Cajun to Tex Mex. Sugar Land also has the lowest combined divorce rate plus the second lowest housing costs. And to top it off, workers earn a median income above the six-figure mark.

Did You Know: Sugar Land was developed by the Imperial Sugar Co., which was responsible for building the area's first homes.

1. Midland

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 556 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 290.5
  • Average commute time: 17.4 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 3.6%
  • Median household income: $59,478
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 8.3% of males, 12.4% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 19%

Midland is located in the plains region of west Texas, just up the road from Odessa. Although it doesn't rank first in any particular category, it still managed to nab the number one spot on our list based on how it scores overall. Some of the things that keep residents jumping for joy include a fairly short commute, lower housing costs and an ample median income. It also doesn't hurt that there are oodles of great places to gather with friends, like the Wall Street Bar & Grill and Gerardo's Casita.

Did You Know: The childhood home of former President George W. Bush is one of Midland's best-known cultural attractions.


To be sure, cities like San Antonio, Houston and Dallas have their fair share of fulfilled residents. All three are excellent picks if you're launching a career, changing jobs or just prefer living in a busier urban area. When it comes down to how we determined our rankings, however, the 10 cities in our study proved to be the happiest overall.

The Top 40 Happiest Cities in Texas

RankCityPeople per Restaurants and BarsViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute Time% Leaving Before 5amMedian Household Income% Male Divorce1% Female Divorce1Income Spent on Housing
1Midland557.91 in 290.517.43.6%$59,4788.3%12.4%19%
2Sugar Land355.51 in 760.828.52.3%$107,1495.2%8.3%18.9%
3Wichita Falls464.71 in 222.114.74.8%$44,39010.7%13.0%20.7%
4Odessa544.11 in 94.017.84.4%$51,25111.7%13.8%17.7%
5Flower Mound692.11 in 3,239.228.61.3%$118,7256.3%9.0%20.3%
6Allen853.71 in 1,614.227.42.2%$101,9666.8%11.7%19.8%
7Richardson423.31 in 603.923.62.3%$68,8067.3%11.4%21.1%
8Plano479.81 in 764.825.61.9%$83,1937.1%12.0%20.2%
9League City1,116.31 in 1,090.228.94.6%$88,2898.9%12.1%20.9%
10Frisco745.21 in 1,257.227.81.7%$108,4286.2%10.6%20.5%
11Pearland867.51 in 769.9304.5%$89,1496.7%10.8%22.1%
12Longview429.11 in 178.319.65.2%$43,9269.9%13.3%20.8%
13Missouri City945.51 in 823.529.13.0%$83,3076.3%9.3%21.8%
14Carrollton674.21 in 691.5243.0%$69,5927.7%13.0%21.9%
15Victoria437.91 in 158.218.25.2%$46,48312.8%16.0%19.9%
16New Braunfels460.31 in 525.923.43.5%$55,3709.1%11.4%22.3%
17Amarillo480.91 in 153.817.34.8%$45,65911.8%14.9%20.3%
18Abilene514.71 in 254.0154.3%$41,63111.0%13.5%21.2%
19Rowlett901.61 in 821.531.54.3%$83,1535.1%11.7%22.9%
20McAllen441.71 in 817.719.63.3%$40,6367.6%10.9%23.5%
21Round Rock512.41 in 753.423.92.4%$69,9988.3%14.2%22.1%
22Mansfield770.41 in 790.429.72.7%$92,2088.3%11.7%21%
23Mission718.31 in 774.624.33.3%$40,5134.6%7.2%23%
24Pflugerville1,059.11 in 811.225.52.8%$75,1198.3%12.6%22.5%
25Edinburg802.31 in 225.018.93.1%$40,1877.4%9.7%21.1%
26Irving569.31 in 441.822.33.5%$49,3038.4%11.6%23.5%
27Tyler419.11 in 186.618.74.6%$42,7299.8%14.1%23.6%
28McKinney827.91 in 603.128.32.3%$81,8946.8%12.4%22.7%
29North Richland Hills640.11 in 386.825.53.5%$63,80611.0%13.1%21.6%
30Beaumont507.41 in 96.918.36.0%$40,76512.5%14.9%22.3%
31Cedar Park733.61 in 477.526.12.3%$76,1186.3%14.1%23.2%
32Pasadena846.01 in 248.525.25.8%$45,8439.7%12.1%22.1%
33Bryan645.11 in 251.516.83.5%$37,7637.3%11.4%25.2%
34Euless676.71 in 560.322.53.5%$55,53712.4%17.2%22.3%
35Port Arthur760.71 in 159.119.26.2%$33,45610.8%13.4%20.9%
36Lubbock483.71 in 120.915.42.8%$42,5849.1%12.7%23.6%
37Conroe452.41 in 270.825.16.2%$44,61310.1%14.8%23.7%
38Corpus Christi486.31 in 152.019.24.2%$47,02911.9%15.5%22.8%
39Denton582.31 in 322.323.22.6%$47,5987.7%9.6%24.5%
40Killeen739.91 in 155.119.75.4%$44,7999.9%15.3%25.3%

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)

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