Imagine living in a city with the country's highest rate for violent crime and the second-highest unemployment rate. As an added kicker you need more Superfund dollars allocated to your city to clean up contaminated toxic waste sites than just about any other metro.
Unfortunately, this nightmare is a reality for the residents of Detroit. The Motor City grabs the top spot on Forbes' inaugural list of America's Most Miserable Cities.
Misery is defined as a state of great unhappiness and emotional distress. The economic indicator most often used to measure misery is the Misery Index. The index, created by economist Arthur Okun, adds the unemployment rate to the inflation rate. It has been in the narrow 7-to-9 range for most of the past decade, but was over 20 during the late 1970s.
There also exists a Misery Score, which is the sum of corporate, personal, employer and sales taxes in different countries. France took the top spot (or perhaps bottom is more appropriate) with a score of 166.8, thanks to a top rate of 51% on personal incomes and 45% for employer Social Security.
But aren't there other things that cause Americans misery? Of course. So we decided to expand on the Misery Index and the Misery Score to create our very own Forbes Misery Measure. We're sticking with unemployment and personal tax rates, but we are adding four more factors that can make people miserable: commute times, weather, crime and that toxic waste dump in your backyard.
We looked at only the 150 largest metropolitan areas, which meant a minimum population of 371,000. We ranked the cities on the six criteria above and added their ranks together to establish what we call the Misery Measure. The data used in the rankings came from Portland, Ore., researcher Bert Sperling, who last year published the second edition of Cities Ranked & Rated along with Peter Sander. Economic research firm Economy.com, which is owned by Moody's, also supplied some data.
Detroit in the top spot, with its sister city Flint ranked third, is probably not a great shock. "If Detroit were a baseball team, we'd say they are mired in a slump," says Sperling. Both Detroit and Flint have suffered tremendously from the auto industry downturn. Flint's plight was immortalized in the Michael Moore movie Roger & Me, which chronicles Moore's attempts to meet with then General Motors Chief Executive Roger Smith.
You can read the entire article listing the other 9 miserable areas here. I love the last line though ~
So take heart, Detroit, you are not alone. After all, misery loves company.
If you want to catch a glimpse of Detroit, check out this video in a previous post of mine.