Michigan has a serious PR problem on its hands, if you believe two studies this week that ranked its cities among the saddest, most depressed in America.
Forbes magazine hit the state with a top two finish Friday in its annual rankings of the "most miserable" cities in the U.S. Detroit ranked No. 1. Flint ranked No. 2.
Forbes' rankings are based mainly on economic factors, including unemployment, foreclosures, income and property taxes and home prices, in addition to violent crime. Detroit ranked high on violent crime and the rate at which home prices are falling.
"Right now, it's all about survival," Mayor Dave Bing told Forbes.
In a separate study this week, mathematicians at the University of Vermont ranked the 373 "saddest" cities in the U.S., based on a quantitative analysis of keywords in more than 10 million geotagged posts on Twitter.
Detroit finished 29th. Flint was even sadder — its residents were the sixth-saddest in the country, according to the Vermonters.
(Adding insult to injury, Warren, Mich., shows up at seventh on Forbes' list.)
The Midwest, in fact, is heavily represented in both lists. Forbes' 20 most miserable cities also include Rockford, Ill. (third); Chicago (fourth); Lake County, Ill. (ninth); Toledo, Ohio (11th); St. Louis (12th); Milwaukee (14th); Cleveland (17th); Gary, Ind. (19th) and Youngstown, Ohio (20th).
Battle Creek, Mich. (eighth), and Lima, Ohio (ninth), also show up in the 20 saddest cities.
"This is not a league in which we want to play ball," Chuck Sweeny, political editor of The Rockford (Ill.) Star, wrote in a column Friday.
"We know what's wrong: too much poverty, too few college graduates, too few opportunities to get a college degree here, high crime in certain areas, an inability to work together to coordinate economic development and school districts considered poor or just average," Sweeny wrote.
"Add to that a crumbling inner city and thousands of substandard homes, and you've got a problem when the ratings folks come to town, or more likely, Google us."
At least "we are nothing like Flint," he added.
From Flint, the counterargument:
"This is ridiculous. I am proud to be from Flint, MI," Manuel Gatica of New York — a Flint native — commented on Facebook. "I enjoy going back to visit and I live in New York, New York. I am a very happy person. The writer at Forbes must have a miserable life."
Detroiters, however, generally seemed to agree with their ranking, at least as indicated in comments at NBC station WDIV of Detroit:
- The perfect storm of all your eggs in one basket (the auto industry) and corrupt politicians (Kwame, Young) has done this once-great city in. Hopefully some day Detroit can turn itself around.
- Duh...that's not a surprise. In fact every time the news comes accross with "breaking news" and it tells about a murder in Detroit, we always say that's not breaking news. That's old news. Breaking news would be no murders in Detroit.
- Come on... this can't be a surprise to anyone living in the city or in the metro area
- I am always amazed when we travel and we go "downtown" in a major city, and there are actually occupied buildings and people all over the place...crazy, Detroit ain't like that, so depressing to be THE MOST MISERABLE
The happiest city in America is Napa, Calif., the Vermont researchers concluded. The saddest? Beaumont, Texas. It's just one of many Deep South municipalities at the bottom of the list — and many in the region aren't happy about it.
"Albany is home. I wouldn't imagine being anywhere else," said Layne Tumlin of Albany, Ga., which ranked second on the saddest cities list.
"I did leave and come back," Tumlin told NBC station WALB of Albany. "I left for a few years, about eight, and traveled — got it out of my system, but the whole time I was gone, I kept thinking about home."
"I hate that we have such a stigma like that," said Nancy Jane Karam, who told NBC station KSLA of Shreveport, La. — No. 4 on the Vermont list.
Bill McCown, a psychology professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, said he was dumbfounded at Monroe's No. 5 ranking on the "saddest" list.
"If you would have said this about New York, I would have believed it," McCown told the News-Star newspaper. "But not Monroe."