California cities top most miserable list

NEW YORK Thu Feb 3, 2011 2:56pm EST

A foreclosed home is seen in Stockton, California in this May 13, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/Files

A foreclosed home is seen in Stockton, California in this May 13, 2008 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith/Files

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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - If the saying "as goes California, so goes the nation" still rings true, then Americans are facing a depressing future, according to a list of the country's most miserable cities.

Ravaged by falling house prices, high unemployment, a massive budget deficit, rampant crime and high state taxes, California filled four of the top five spots in the Forbes list of unhappy urban areas.

Stockton, in the state's Central Valley, topped the list, followed by Miami, in Florida, Merced, Modesto and Sacramento -- all in California.

"California was hit by the bursting of the housing bubble about as hard as can be imagined," said Kurt Badenhausen, Forbes senior editor.

"Both California and Florida have a history of boom and bust economies. People flooded to these states because of the weather during the boom years but that helped inflate the massive bubble in housing."

Forbes analyzed the 200 largest U.S. cities and ranked them on 10 factors including unemployment, the weather, taxes, commuting times, violent crime and even how its sports teams have performed in recent years.

California and Florida both have plenty of sunshine, but for the first time Forbes also looked at housing as a factor following the real estate crash. Changes in median home prices over three years and foreclosure rates in 2010 were included in the survey.

In Stockton, home prices have crashed by 58 percent over the last three years and unemployment has averaged 14.3 percent. Unemployment is projected to rise to 18.1 percent in 2011, after averaging 17.2 percent in 2010, according to economists at Moody's Analytics.

"Stockton has issues that it needs to address, but an article like this is the equivalent of bayoneting the wounded," Bob Deis, Stockton city manager, told the magazine.

"I find it unfair, and it does everybody a disservice. The people of Stockton are warm. The sense of community is fantastic. You have to come here and talk to leaders. The data is the data, but there is a richer story here."

Miami was the only city not from the Golden State to crack the top five. Its sunshine and lower state taxes saved Florida's second most populous city from taking first place.

Florida and California are home to 16 of the top 20 cities in terms of home foreclosure rates in 2010, with Miami topping the list with 171,704 last year.

Ron Pollina, president of site selection firm Pollina Corporate Real Estate, told Forbes.com the outlook for California's corporate real estate market isn't much brighter.

"If I even mention California, they throw me out of the office," Pollina said. "Every company hates California."

Chicago and Washington D.C. were two of the 10 largest cities to make the list, hurt by long commute times, taxes, weather and falling home prices. Detroit, which topped the list the first time it was run in 2008, was in 15th place this time, helped by the inclusion of housing.

New York was outside the top 20 having finished 16th in 2010.

Cleveland, last year's most miserable city, finished 10th this year, losing the race to the bottom as unemployment increased at a relatively slower pace than elsewhere.

To see the full list of cities on Forbes.com please click tinyurl.com/686gu9t

(Reporting by David Sheppard; Editing by Patricia Reaney)

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Comments (5)
DrJJJJ wrote:
As goes Califronia, so goes the world!! Californis is the 8th largest economy in the world-about the GDP of India believe it or not! Also, our national debt is now about the same amount as our GDP and represents almost 25% of the total world debt! We have a moral obligation to find the will to change and cut spoending reradless of who is at fault or how much it slows our economy down! California is about to experience a mass exodus of business and population-please tunr out the lights when you leave-it’s the green thing to do! Suggestion for California: fire your leaders with spending addictions( many if not most) and replace with the best practices found in Canada! Canada, about the population of CA, had a very similar finacial crisis and decided to cut spending across the board dramtically-IT WORKED! The revenue bubble is not coming folks and only cuts will do the trick!! Might want to work on your moral crisis too-has big social and financial costs! Send the immoral to Nevada, they’ll fit right in- “Sin City” has worked out so well for them as a mission statement-see any matrix of social ills-they top the list!!

Feb 03, 2011 12:33pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Waldo313 wrote:
Their misery is due to the cops and firemen stealing all of the money because they were able to buy off crooked politicians and government officials.

Feb 03, 2011 4:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
GoodDaddy wrote:
Wow,what you expect after 2 terms of Arnold Governator as head of the state who’s just a Hollywood actor? Answer: Hollywood Drama! Californian are just lucky to survive. Look at roads, school other services. Can’t we sue Arnold? Can state file for bankruptcy to get ride of all these corrupted politicians?

Feb 04, 2011 2:13am EST  --  Report as abuse
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