Study: Happiest Cities in Wisconsin

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Wisconsin is known for its farmland and Cheeseheads, but there's so much more to the Badger State. Between the football, the bratwurst, and the beer, folks around here know how to have fun and they're not shy about spreading the good cheer. Take a look at which cities the CreditDonkey team ranked as Wisconsin's happiest.

Study Methodology

We began by gathering available U.S. Census and FBI crime data for every locality with a population of 5,000 or higher. Each city was assigned a ranking based on how it scored in seven different categories. The cities that made the top 10 are the ones that earned the best cumulative scores for the following:

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

Enjoying an evening out with close friends or loved ones is a great way to unwind, and it can definitely improve your mood if you've had a bad day. We decided to see where residents have the most opportunities to socialize based on the number of restaurants per capita.

Wisconsin consistently ranks as one of the safest states in the country, but we know that crime rates vary from one city to the next. We decided to take a closer look and see how each city stacks up based on the odds of being the victim of a violent crime.

Traffic tie-ups can dampen your day, especially if getting to work takes up a lot of your time. To see where residents have the least headaches on the road, we considered each city's average commute time.

Choosing to get an early start plays a big part in how much you're able to get done and how fulfilled you feel at the end of the day. We wanted to see how wake-up times influenced workers' attitudes, so we looked at the percentage of residents who leave for work before 5 a.m.

Making a lot of money won't solve all your problems, but it can alleviate some of your financial woes. We checked the median income for each city to gauge how well-off residents are.

Marriage is all about give and take but for some couples, striking the right balance proves to be difficult. Our study looked at the percentage of men and women who are divorced in each city to gives us a measure of marital satisfaction in each city.

How much you pay for your home also plays a part in determining how happy you are with where you live. We considered the percentage of income residents in each city spend on housing to see where homeowners and renters have the least cause for complaint.

10 Happiest Cities in Wisconsin

10. De Pere

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 372 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1,206.1
  • Average commute time: 16.4 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 4.3%
  • Median household income: $56,368
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 10.2% of males, 10% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 21.3%

The city of De Pere is one of Green Bay's more popular suburbs, and the 24,000 people who live here will be glad to tell you what makes it so livable. Violent crime is a rare occurrence and you'll find that housing isn't a budget killer. Getting to work on time usually isn't a challenge, with an average commute of around 16 minutes, and employees are well compensated for their time. The only sad figure is the relatively high number of divorcees compared to other cities on this list.

Did You Know: Famed horror writer Stephen King spent part of his childhood in De Pere.

9. Richland Center

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 256 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1,039
  • Average commute time: 15.2 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 9.9%
  • Median household income: $38,410
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 7.8% of males, 17.1% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 19.6%

With just over 5,100 residents, Richland Center is the second smallest city on our list in terms of population. Its size works to its advantage in a lot of ways, particularly when it comes to traffic: the average drive is the shortest in our rankings. Close to 10% of residents leave for work before 5 a.m. While the median income is a little lower, keeping a roof over your head won't take too big of a bite out of your paycheck.

Did You Know: Richland Center is the birthplace of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

8. Two Rivers

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 502 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 778.3
  • Average commute time: 18 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 6.7%
  • Median household income: $42,888
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 8.8% of males, 11.7% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 17.7%

Two Rivers offers up some breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, but that's not the only thing that makes locals so overjoyed about living here. Almost 7% of residents are getting ready for work at the break of dawn, and it takes residents just 18 minutes on average to reach their destination. The area neighborhoods have a reputation for being safe, and housing won't cost you an arm and a leg.

Did You Know: Two Rivers has long been involved in a heated debate with Ithaca, N.Y., over which city holds the honor of being the birthplace of the ice cream sundae, the dessert which makes people very happy.

7. Ripon

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 249 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1,111.9
  • Average commute time: 16.6 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 8%
  • Median household income: $43,598
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 4.8% of males, 9.4% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 21.9%

About 7,700 people live in Ripon, and based on the numbers, it looks like they're tickled pink about their choice. The city has one of the better violent crime rates, and the combined divorce rate is fairly low, at just over 14%. Ripon also gets great marks when it comes to the number of restaurants per capita, with places like Roadhouse Pizza and Pastimes drawing big crowds.

Did You Know: Before going on to star in movies like Star Wars and the Indiana Jones series, Harrison Ford enjoyed a brief stint as a philosophy major at Ripon College.

6. Mequon

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 474 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1,452.3
  • Average commute time: 22.1 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 2.1%
  • Median household income: $106,733
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 4.5% of males, 7.2% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 18.4%

Located less than 20 miles from the downtown area, Mequon is one of Milwaukee's more upscale suburban communities. The 23,000 people who live here earn the highest median income in our rankings, cashing in at nearly $107,000 annually. The median home price is higher, but you'll still spend only about 18% of your pay on housing. Married couples seem to be content, and families will appreciate the sense of security that permeates the city's different neighborhoods.

Did You Know: Relaxing treks through the woods is the idea of happiness for many people, and such an opportunity can be found here. The Mequon Nature Preserve features 438 acres of woods and wetlands, as well as more than 5 miles of trails to explore.

5. Brookfield

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 333 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 2,005.2
  • Average commute time: 20.7 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 1.8%
  • Median household income: $88,012
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 4.3% of males, 5.7% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 20.1%

Brookfield is also a suburb of Milwaukee and with almost 38,000 residents, it's the most populous city on our list. If you're wondering what makes living here so appealing, one thing that immediately jumps out is the scarcity of violent crime. A median income of over $88,000 is certainly a perk and the outlook for married couples is excellent, with a divorce rate of only 10%.

Did You Know: Brookfield is just minutes from some of the area's best attractions, including the Milwaukee County Zoo and Miller Park.

4. Mayville

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 392 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 5,159
  • Average commute time: 23.2 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 12.6%
  • Median household income: $56,445
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 10.8% of males, 12.1% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 19%

Mayville is the epitome of small town charm, and the nearly 5,100 people who live here tend to share a positive attitude. You won't find a safer city in our rankings. And the affordability of housing is just another reason why residents tend to stay put. Almost 13% of workers are on the move before dawn, and they're reaping the rewards in the form of a $56,000 median income.

Did You Know: The Hollenstein Wagon and Carriage Factory, which dates to 1878, features six original wagons and a carriage, all manufactured in Mayville.

3. Sheboygan Falls

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 518 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 863.3
  • Average commute time: 16.2 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 5.2%
  • Median household income: $58,283
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 12.7% of males, 10.5% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 16.6%

Sheboygan Falls is part of the larger Sheboygan metropolitan area, and there are around 7,700 people who are happily ensconced in the city. Its low housing costs earned it the number three spot on our list, with residents spending the least amount of income on a home compared to the rest of our cities. It also doesn't hurt that the average commute takes less than 17 minutes and residents earn a nearly $60,000 median payday.

Did You Know: Nearby Sheboygan is known as the Bratwurst Capital of the World.

2. Onalaska

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 493 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1,794.5
  • Average commute time: 18.6 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 3.7%
  • Median household income: $59,186
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 4.2% of males, 7.4% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 18.7%

If you're trying to find your happy place, Onalaska is one of the cities you'll want to consider. Just over 18,000 people have settled down in this lakefront community, and life here seems to be pretty pleasant. Residents enjoy one of the best crime rates in our study. They also fare well when it comes to things like income, housing costs and the average commute.

Did You Know: One of the city's quirkier attractions is Sunny the Sunfish, a giant fish sculpture which overlooks Lake Onalaska.

1. New London

  • Restaurants per capita: 1 per 250 inhabitants
  • Odds of being the victim of a violent crime: 1 in 1,225.7
  • Average commute time: 20.5 minutes
  • Percentage of residents leaving for work before 5 a.m.: 15.4%
  • Median household income: $47,632
  • Percentage of residents who are divorced: 8.9% of males, 13% of females
  • Percentage of income spent on housing: 18.3%

Like many of the cities we've profiled, New London is on the small side, but that doesn't stop it from coming in at number one on our list. Approximately 15% of the city's 7,200 residents leave for work before the sun is up, the highest percentage in our study. The median income is nothing to sneeze at and the ride to work isn't a major time crunch. New London is also a favorite among foodies, with restaurants like the Pine Tree Supper Club and Beacon Street Deli offering up delicious cuisine in a cozy atmosphere.

Did You Know: New London is a major hotspot for fishermen who come to try their luck on the Embarrass and Wolf Rivers.


If you're wondering why Madison and Green Bay aren't on the list, it's not because folks who live in these cities are feeling forlorn about their choice of hometown. In fact, residents would probably tell you the exact opposite. When it came down to the criteria we used for measuring happiness, the cities that climbed to the top of our rankings just had the best numbers overall.

The Top 40 Happiest Cities in Wisconsin

RankCityPeople per Restaurants and BarsViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute Time% Leaving Before 5amMedian Household Income% Male Divorce1% Female Divorce1Income Spent on Housing
1New London249.71 in 1,225.720.515.4%$47,6328.9%13.0%18.3%
2Onalaska493.41 in 1,794.518.63.7%$59,1864.2%7.4%18.7%
3Sheboygan Falls517.91 in 863.316.25.2%$58,28312.7%10.5%16.6%
4Mayville391.81 in 5,159.023.212.6%$56,44510.8%12.1%19%
5Brookfield333.11 in 2,005.220.71.8%$88,0124.3%5.7%20.1%
6Mequon474.01 in 1,452.322.12.1%$106,7334.5%7.2%18.4%
7Ripon248.91 in 1,111.916.68.0%$43,5984.8%9.4%21.9%
8Two Rivers502.01 in 778.3186.7%$42,8888.8%11.7%17.7%
9Richland Center255.81 in 1,039.015.29.9%$38,4107.8%17.1%19.6%
10De Pere372.41 in 1,206.116.44.3%$56,36810.2%10.0%21.3%
11Cedarburg368.91 in 5,732.524.62.6%$67,3824.0%10.7%18.3%
12Middleton302.71 in 1,045.521.24.5%$61,6916.9%14.6%19.8%
13Kaukauna541.21 in 917.720.16.4%$53,4029.4%12.6%19.9%
14Marshfield321.21 in 1,475.214.34.3%$42,7838.6%13.3%19.1%
15Verona487.51 in 2,164.821.12.4%$82,3356.2%12.0%20%
16Monroe291.71 in 905.815.98.7%$41,19711.6%13.8%20.4%
17Neenah343.51 in 733.718.24.6%$51,1689.1%11.5%20.5%
18Beaver Dam319.41 in 2,029.418.98.9%$46,58110.8%13.1%21.9%
19Delafield178.41 in 3,559.0243.2%$83,7509.9%11.8%20.3%
20Franklin751.71 in 2,231.923.64.1%$76,4266.8%11.9%20.6%
21Berlin306.61 in 1,850.319.18.1%$42,74010.2%14.2%20.7%
22Fitchburg699.91 in 494.820.53.6%$61,0688.5%10.0%20.1%
23Marinette271.61 in 997.411.87.6%$38,42914.8%18.9%18.7%
24Baraboo523.71 in 485.516.96.1%$47,8869.5%16.0%19.9%
25Manitowoc379.41 in 542.4166.9%$42,57912.4%14.3%20%
26Hartford459.51 in 1,789.323.16.5%$57,3168.6%11.7%22.1%
27Fort Atkinson328.11 in 777.418.46.5%$50,62011.2%11.9%22.5%
28Wauwatosa379.61 in 599.320.21.8%$68,6747.9%11.9%21.1%
29Oak Creek634.71 in 609.023.63.6%$69,1078.9%12.2%19.8%
30Appleton374.41 in 344.717.94.3%$52,60510.9%13.4%20.8%
31Muskego659.61 in 6,062.325.33.1%$84,0756.7%10.0%21.4%
32South Milwaukee624.61 in 576.122.35.0%$53,99012.5%11.0%19.6%
33Sparta259.51 in 962.717.97.2%$41,13212.7%13.4%21.5%
34Stevens Point284.61 in 558.515.92.6%$38,9346.3%8.8%21%
35Lake Mills481.91 in 1,913.727.710.6%$51,69111.9%8.9%21.7%
36Antigo297.91 in 340.710.93.9%$38,66917.6%9.5%19.3%
37Sheboygan379.01 in 289.816.96.0%$42,54911.6%13.7%20.7%
38West Bend415.01 in 1,078.423.53.6%$54,57910.4%13.0%19.8%
39Oconomowoc361.11 in 3,166.424.22.1%$72,2018.6%13.0%21.1%
40Stoughton461.71 in 917.9232.6%$60,2349.0%14.1%20.3%

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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