California cities top most miserable list

Thu Feb 3, 2011 2:56pm EST
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By David Sheppard

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.   Continued...

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