Located in the state's Central Valley, Stockton has been ravaged by the housing bust. Median home prices in the city tripled between 1998 and 2005, when they peaked at $431,000. Now they are back to where they started, as the median price is forecast to be $142,000 this year, according to research firm Economy.com, a decline of 67% from 2005. Foreclosure filings affected 6.9% of homes last year in the Stockton area, the seventh-highest rate in the nation, according to online foreclosure marketplace RealtyTrac.
Stockton's violent crime and unemployment rates also rank among the 10 worst in the country, although violent crime was down 10% in the latest figures from the FBI. Jobless rates are expected to decline or stay flat in most U.S. metro areas in 2011, but in Stockton, unemployment is projected to rise to 18.1% in 2011 after averaging 17.2% in 2010, according to Economy.com.
The Stockton Record, for one, is not taking the city's perennial appearance in the list's top tier lying down. (Before reading on, you may want to listen to the song "Stockton's Some Place Special" to get in the mood):
There must be a better way to shiver through one of the worst winter storms in New York history, but the Forbes people have done it again: tried to tell us we're more miserable than they are. Makes you want to put on your sunglasses, bask in the winter warmth and laugh at their pronouncement...
We offer this defense: the redeveloped Stockton waterfront, the Miracle Mile, the campus of University of the Pacific and West Coast cool...
This is the second time in three years Forbes has put Stockton at the top of this questionable list. We'd like to tell Forbes to chill out, but we're not as cruel as the magazine's editors. Instead, we offer these words from a Stockton newcomer, city manager Bob Deis:
"Stockton has issues that it needs to address, but an article like this is the equivalent of bayoneting the wounded. 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."
Below are two blog posts about the list from Stockton residents. The first was written in 2009 and is called "Is Stockton really miserable or just potentially miserable? Plus, a special appearance by hope!"
...We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Stockton is town of fighters... If we’re going to get out of the slump this city has been in for years, we have to fight. We have to fight the voices in the back of our head that’s freaking out about bills, mortgage payments, and job security. That little voice can’t win. That’s what makes people miserable.
...Forbes never called anybody from Stockton and asked if they’re miserable... (E)verybody gets down from time to time. But straight up completely miserable? Cynical maybe, but not miserable. I think deep down inside, even past that previously mentioned nagging voice in the back of our heads, we all know it’s all going to turn out OK. Like the Forbes article says, we were ground zero for the real estate boom and we were ground zero for the real estate collapse. Who’s to say we won’t be ground zero for economic recovery? Sure, s*** looks bleak right now, but as housing prices continue to drop more and more people are able to afford homes. The jobs will eventually come back, and s*** will work out.
The second post was written by Ian Hill, who just happens to be KQED's online community engagement specialist. He's a six-year Stockton resident and wrote this last year:
I should be an expert on misery. That’s what I get from Forbes’ list of America’s 20 Most Miserable Cities. I grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., which is no. 8 on the list. I also spent a summer in New York City (no. 16), and from 2000-2005 I lived in Youngstown, Ohio (no. 18). In total I lived in Ohio for a decade, during which I also had occasion to spend time in Cleveland (no. 1) and Toledo (no. 15).
Since 2005 I’ve lived in Stockton (no. 2), and for the past year or so I’ve also been covering entertainment in Modesto (no. 11). So according to Forbes, I should be desperately forlorn. Here’s the thing, though. I’m actually pretty happy.
In fact, most of the cities I’ve lived in have been, in general, pretty happy places... I love Stockton and Modesto, both of which are home to many friendly people, a diverse array of restaurants and growing entertainment scenes. In Stockton’s Miracle Mile neighborhood alone there are two upscale restaurants and a brewery as well as establishments offering pizza, sushi, chicken wings and Mediterranean, Chinese and Mexican food. And each restaurant is within walking distance of the others.
Of course, Stockton and Modesto also have their share of issues. And those issues are how Forbes determines whether or not a city is miserable. The magazine uses a misery index which takes into account unemployment, commute times, violent crime, taxes, crime and how its pro sports teams have performed, among other factors.
But it’s unfair to imply that those issues make an entire city miserable. It’s impossible to generalize unhappiness. Particularly when some of us are pretty darn happy.