Sorry, singles, but these cities just aren't that into you. The places that are ranked poor for the unmarried may be quite lovely for couples, families or retirees. But based on economic and demographic factors, we found these cities to be far from perfect matches for resident bachelors and bachelorettes.
How did we come up with our list of the worst cities for singles? We started by looking for metropolitan areas with more than 125,000 people. Then we penalized places with small populations of singles, including the never-married, divorced and widowed. The share of unmarried residents in each of these bottom-ten cities is well shy of the national average.
Financial indicators didn't boost the cities' attractiveness. Although many of these areas boast below-average living costs, paychecks typically are way below average, too. We also factored in education level, keeping in mind that people with bachelor's and advanced degrees are more likely to be gainfully employed. After all, you can't exactly rock the single lifestyle without the earnings to fund it.
On the bright side, we scoured our rankings for areas near these ten cities that might serve as suitable alternatives. Take a look.
Population and income data come from the U.S. Census Bureau. Cost-of-living data is provided by the Council for Community and Economic Research, which tracks living expenses nationwide.
10. Parkersburg, W.Va.
- Metro population: 133,790
- Percentage of unmarried adults: 44.2% (U.S.: 48.6%)
- Cost of living: 6.3% below U.S. average
- Median household income: $43,007 (U.S.: $53,046)
- Alternative city: Morgantown, W.Va.
Dubbed by some the "Savings Bond Capital of America," Parkersburg offers more in the way of stability than sex appeal. With 54.4% of the population married, singles ready to mingle find themselves wading in a shallow dating pool. The young and unmarried may be particularly restless: The median age is 42.2 years old, versus the U.S. median of 37.3. At least the area comes with affordable living costs and a low unemployment rate of 5.9% (compared with the national 6.5% rate), as of December 2013. But with median incomes typically 18.9% less than the national median, you may still feel inclined to pinch your pennies.
For greener and more-single pastures, head a couple of hours east to Morgantown, home of West Virginia University. The city has living costs just 1.2% above the national average — a small price to pay for a dating pool 56.7% deep. Note that the student crowd pulls the median age down to just 32.5.
RESOURCE: Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Parkersburg area (opens in new tab).
9. Anderson, S.C.
- Metro population: 150,119
- Percentage of unmarried adults: 43.7%
- Cost of living: 8.1% below U.S. average
- Median household income: $42,659
- Alternative city: Marietta, Ga. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near the shores of Lake Hartwell, this small-town setting doesn't exactly sing to singles. After all, the city proper has a population of just 26,708, making it more likely that you'll find a familiar face than a hot new love interest. Much of the metro area, 53.1%, is married anyway.
For a bigger, bustling metropolis, Atlanta is just two hours south and holds far more favorable odds for unmarried folks to find fun times. The metro area has a sizable population of 4.1 million people, 48.7% of whom are single. Just outside the city, Marietta and its 58,359 residents offer a more intimate community, not to mention more singles, with a lifestyle more closely resembling the one you might enjoy in Anderson.
RESOURCE: Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Anderson area (opens in new tab).
8. Fort Smith, Ark.
- Metro population: 235,075
- Percentage of unmarried adults: 44.6%
- Cost of living: 12.3% below U.S. average
- Median household income: $38,652
- Alternative city: Little Rock, Ark. This city is rich in history, but poor in pay. Fort Smith's cost of living may seem impressively affordable, but with a median income more than $14,000 below the national level — and the second-lowest on this list — the lower expenses may not add up to many dollars saved. Still, the city, bordered by the Arkansas River, offers an Old West charm, earning it recognition as one of the nation's top ten true Western towns by True West magazine.
Three hours east in Little Rock, a greater abundance of singles is still steeped in Natural State history. The population consists of 47.8% unmarried people, a lower share than the national average but it's still much more single-friendly than Fort Smith. Or farther west, across the Oklahoma border, Tulsa singles make up 45.6% of the area and enjoy living costs as low as in Fort Smith. Either way you go, you're likely to earn a median income about $10,000 greater.
RESOURCE: Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Fort Smith area (opens in new tab).
7. Ocala, Fla.
- Metro population: 279,357
- Percentage of unmarried adults: 43.8%
- Cost of living: 10.4% below U.S. average
- Median household income: $39,770
- Alternative city: Tallahassee, Fla. Known as the "Horse Capital of the World," Ocala can offer you plenty of options for a romantic ride — but a suitable date to ride with might be harder to find. The local population is 54% married, leaving a slimmer chance for singles to find a partner. Younger daters, in particular, could struggle given the area's median age of 47.4, thanks to the abundance of retirees. And although the area may always be a retirement haven, says Kevin Sheilley, president of the Ocala-Marion County Chamber Economic Partnership, it is working to draw in young professionals with its stable and growing job market, as well as its vibrant downtown and active outdoor lifestyle.
If you're not willing to wait for that growth, Tallahassee, about three hours away, currently offers a population with many more singles — a dominant 58.3% of the population — and far fewer years. Skewed by the college crowd, including the student bodies of Florida State and Florida A&M, the median age is 32.1.
RESOURCE: Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Ocala area (opens in new tab).
6. Thomasville, N.C.
- Metro population: 130,710
- Percentage of unmarried adults: 41.0%
- Cost of living: 7.9% below U.S. average
- Median household income: $44,318
- Alternative city: Durham, N.C. Welcome to the home of the world's largest chair. In the heart of North Carolina's discount-furniture district, Thomasville is a great place for shoppers to find a love seat but not so great a place for singles to find love. This small metro area, anchored by the tiny city of Thomasville (population: 26,841) and its namesake furniture brand, has the second-lowest share of unwed folks among our worst cities for singles.
If you don't mind bigger crowds, the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area offers a much deeper dating pool, with 51% of its 412,786 residents unmarried. A downside: The living costs are 10.3% higher than the national average, and the median income is $52,143, less than the national level.
RESOURCE: Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Thomasville area (opens in new tab).
5. Punta Gorda, Fla.
- Metro population: 142,074
- Percentage of unmarried adults: 40.2%
- Cost of living: 5.5% below U.S. average
- Median household income: $44,596
- Alternative city: Fort Myers, Fla. The second of our Florida cities, Punta Gorda, is better suited for active retirees than young singles. Only about four in ten adults are unmarried, the lowest share on our list. Plus, the local crowd is the most senior of these ten cities, with a median age of 55.9, and a hefty 34.5% of the population is 65 or older. "We know who our market is today, and that's who we focus on," says city manager Howard Kunik, noting the Harborwalk, an abundance of water activities and other amenities aimed at enhancing a vibrant retirement.
Fort Myers, about 30 minutes south of Punta Gorda, offers a younger and less-attached crowd. The city's median age is 37.6, and a single-friendly 57% of its population is unmarried.
RESOURCE: Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Punta Gorda area (opens in new tab).
4. Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
- Metro population: 167,080
- Percentage of unmarried adults: 45.1%
- Cost of living: 2.9% above U.S. average
- Median household income: $39,383
- Alternative city: Santa Barbara, Cal. It's a nice place to visit, but singles don't seem to want to live here. Lake Havasu City, situated on the eastern shore of its namesake lake, is a popular destination for spring breakers. But for the rest of the year, the isolated area along the California border is home to a mature and married crowd. The city's median age is 47.4, tied for second with Ocala, Fla., for oldest city on this list and about a decade older than the national median; 31.5% of residents are 60 or older, versus just 18.6% for the U.S. as a whole. And the college influence leaves with the partying students: Just 12.2% of the population holds a bachelor's or advanced degree.
Beach-bumming bachelors and bachelorettes should head due west until they hit the Pacific Ocean. That's where they'll find Santa Barbara, our top choice of cities for singles. The median age is just 33.6, and a much greater share of the population, 52.1%, is unmarried.
RESOURCE: Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Lake Havasu City area (opens in new tab).
3. McAllen, Tex.
- Metro population: 549,774
- Percentage of unmarried adults: 42.9%
- Cost of living: 12.7% below U.S. average
- Median household income: $33,218
- Alternative city: Austin, Tex. The numbers add up to a negative singles scene in South Texas. Both McAllen and nearby border town Brownsville are dominated by young families, with 45.8% of households in the former including kids under the age of 18 (versus 29.9% for the U.S.). No wonder McAllen is the youngest city on this list, with a notably green median age of 28.3. The financial situation doesn't add much appeal, regardless of marital status. While McAllen is one of the cheapest places to live, its median household income ranks among the lowest of all metro areas in the country.
The Lone Star State's capital is a much better option. Austin ranks high among our "10 Best Cities for Singles" due to its large population of unmarried people, generous median household income and low living costs.
RESOURCE: Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the McAllen area (opens in new tab).
2. Kingsport, Tenn.
- Metro population: 256,604
- Percentage of unmarried adults: 41.3%
- Cost of living: 9.4% below U.S. average
- Median household income: $38,925
- Alternative city: Memphis, Tenn.
The Volunteer State didn't fare well in our rankings. In addition to Kingsport, the smaller Tennessee metro areas of Morristown and Cleveland also scored low marks for singles. The married crowd will find more company in these parts, with Kingsport boasting 56.2% of its population currently wed, versus just 49.2% for the U.S.
But before you brand us with a bias against Tennessee, allow us to recommend Memphis for a strong singles setting: 53.7% of the population is unmarried. The cost of living is 14.8% below the U.S. average, and though the median household income falls short of the national level at $47,477, it's still appreciably more than that of Kingsport.
RESOURCE: Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Kingsport area (opens in new tab).
1. Yuma, Ariz.
- Metro population: 151,243
- Percentage of unmarried adults: 41.0%
- Cost of living: 4.2% above U.S. average
- Median household income: $41,156
- Alternative city: Flagstaff, Ariz.With the second-highest percentage of married people on this list, Yuma ranks worst for singles for the second year in a row. And it's a bad choice for anyone looking for a job. As of December 2013, this border town suffered a 27.1% unemployment rate, a striking figure that was the worst of all metro areas in the U.S. and more than quadruple the national rate. Piling on to the financial woes of local residents, the cost of living actually inches above the national average, despite the low median income.
A better bet for Arizona-bound bachelors and bachelorettes might be Flagstaff. You can still enjoy a sunny, dry climate and the intimacy of a small city (with a population of just 108,108), but you'll have many more singles to keep you company — 55.8% of the population is unmarried.
RESOURCE: Find the best, latest mortgage rates in the Yuma area (opens in new tab).
1. Yuma, Ariz.
2. Morristown, Tenn.
3. Medford, Ore.
4. Punta Gorda, Fla.
5. McAllen, Tex.
6. Ocala, Fla.
7. Parkersburg, W. Va.
8. Florence, Ala.
9. Vero Beach, Fla.
10. Fort Smith, Ark.
Kiplinger updates many of its "best places" rankings annually. Above is last year's list of the worst cities for singles. Keep in mind that ranking methodologies can change from year to year based on what data was available at the time of publishing, changes to how the data was gathered, switches to new data providers and tweaks to the formulas used to narrow the pool of candidates.
Rapacon joined Kiplinger in October 2007 as a reporter with Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and became an online editor for Kiplinger.com in June 2010. She previously served as editor of the "Starting Out" column, focusing on personal finance advice for people in their twenties and thirties.
Before joining Kiplinger, Rapacon worked as a senior research associate at b2b publishing house Judy Diamond Associates. She holds a B.A. degree in English from the George Washington University.
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