MORE AT KIPLINGER.COM
Landing on our list of worst cities for singles doesn’t necessarily make a city a bad place to live. Far from it. Many of these cities are great for couples, families or retirees, and many offer enviable amenities, from warm weather to low living costs.
What these cities don’t offer are deep pools of financially attractive singles. Like it or not, when it comes to dating, money matters -- at least to a degree. So while love might ultimately conquer all, a steady paycheck conquers the here and now -- the tab for dinner and the like.
To assemble our list of worst cities for singles, we started by screening for places where the percentage of unmarried households falls well below the national average of 49.4%. That indicates a lower share of single people in the overall population.
Then, we factored in income and cost of living based on data from the Census Bureau and the Council for Community and Economic Research. Although the bottom-ten cities have cost-of-living scores near or below average -- a good thing in and of itself -- household incomes run disproportionately below the average of $49,536.
We also added a date-night tab that shows the typical cost of a couple of movie tickets and a bottle of wine. The amount can be used to budget for your next night on the town. Check out the ten worst cities for singles.
Metro population: 134,851
Unmarried households: 42.5% (avg.= 49.4%)
Cost-of-living score: 94.4 (avg.= 101)
Median household income: $46,336
Date-night tab: $26.58
Coeur d'Alene's pristine lakes and massive ski resorts have made it popular with tourists and families. But singles will find themselves outnumbered in the small northwestern city, where nearly one-fifth of the population is older than 62 and an additional one-third are families with children younger than 18. Spokane, 40 minutes west, makes a solid alternative: Living costs are low, as they are in Coeur d'Alene, but incomes are higher and almost 50% of adults are unmarried.
Metro population: 146,208
Unmarried households: 45.2%
Cost-of-living score: 92.5
Median household income: $39,460
Date-night tab: $26.19
Florence sits in Alabama's northwest corner, only a stone's throw from Mississippi and Tennessee. While the region's Southern charm and low living costs might be attractive to singles, they'll have to contend with limited job opportunities at hospitals, schools and factories, and incomes $10,000 short of the national average. The city's demographics also trend toward families, with 67% of households classified that way. Singles will find better odds in Birmingham, 100 miles southeast, where living costs are 6% lower, incomes are 21% higher, and the dating pool is 5% larger.
Metro population: 416,276
Unmarried households: 44.9%
Cost-of-living score: 101.7
Median household income: $44,059
Date-night tab: $26.95
Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has become popular with retirees who enjoy the area's noted food and foliage and make up roughly one-third of its households. A large population of older adults does not bode well for the singles scene, though. Unmarried adults of any age are the minority in Asheville, and the share of young adults is a mere 17.5%. Even worse, for career-minded singles, jobs are limited to local government and service industries. Better prospects lie east in Durham, which made our list of best cities for singles.
Metro population: 134,876
Unmarried households: 44.7%
Cost-of-living score: 91.0
Median household income: $37,656
Date-night tab: $27.99
Like many small, industrial cities, Morristown suffered during the recession. Today, it still struggles with a 9.7% unemployment rate, negative employment growth and low-paying jobs based heavily in manufacturing. On top of the weak economy, the dating pool is shallow: 11 of every 20 adults are married and only 13% of adults hold a four-year degree. Morristown isn’t alone in these struggles, of course. Numerous Rust Belt cities, from Sandusky, Ohio, to Fort Smith, Ark., prove less-than-optimal singles’ towns for the same reasons.
Metro population: 209,260
Unmarried households: 45.3%
Cost-of-living score: 100.3
Median household income: $43,290
Date-night tab: $23.49
Google “Prescott” and “retirement community” and an endless array of results pops up: retirement homes, retirement resorts, entire “retirement villages” out in the desert. Sunny, historic Prescott is a good destination for retirees, but that makes it a tough place for most singles. The majority of adults are married. The job scene is even more problematic: Unemployment sticks at a stubborn 9.6%, and major employers are limited to local government, schools and medical centers. Jobs are more diverse in Flagstaff, two hours northeast, where 56% of adults are single and incomes meet the national norm.
Metro population: 307,637
Unmarried households: 43.5%
Cost-of-living score: 91.0
Median household income: $37,749
Date-night tab: $27.99
Once a frontier town on the Tennessee-Virginia border, Kingsport today is known less for Davy Crockett than for Eastman Chemicals, the city’s largest employer. As in many industrial towns, incomes here are low -- 24% below the national average -- and few jobs exist outside of manufacturing and related industries. Singles will be hard-pressed to find dates here, too: Kingsport’s share of singles is the second-lowest on our list. Memphis, with its trifecta of high-paying jobs, low living costs and a 56% singles rate, makes a better choice.
Metro population: 159,385
Unmarried households: 40.9%
Cost-of-living score: 93.5
Median household income: $45,037
Date-night tab: $31.69
Sunny Punta Gorda, with its quaint Historic District and newly paved Harborwalk, is another one of those retirement towns that can prove problematic for prowling singles. Only four in ten adults are unmarried, the lowest share on our list. Four in ten are also over age 62, which narrows the pool for young and middle-aged daters. An unemployment rate of 10% further diminishes Punta Gorda’s appeal. Singles might have better luck in Miami, where living costs are higher but 54% of adults are single.
3. Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Metro population: 199,177
Unmarried households: 46.0%
Cost-of-living score: 108.9
Median household income: $39,785
Date-night tab: $23.36
Lake Havasu City was the subject of two "MTV Spring Break" specials, but don't let that fool you. This placid border city is a desert haven for the retirement set, where nearly one-third of adults are over 62 and the majority is married. That makes things difficult for singles, who might already struggle to cover the gap between Lake Havasu's lower-than-average incomes and higher-than-average living costs. While that won't trouble retirees, it’s a reason for younger singles to head for the hills -- the Santa Monica hills, specifically. Los Angeles, five hours west, made our list of best cities for singles.
2. Ocala, Fla.
Metro population: 326,833
Unmarried households: 44.3%
Cost-of-living score: 99.7
Median household income: $40,339
Date-night tab: $24.25
Like Punta Gorda to the south, Ocala's verdant patchwork of new developments, golf courses and retirement homes is dominated by retirees -- a demographic that means its share of singles is low. But in central Florida, a scarcity of dates is not the only factor that might push singles away. Unemployment sits at 11.6%, salaries skew low and employment growth remains negligible. Nearby Gainesville is a better bet on all scores: While incomes are only a bit higher there, unemployment is only 7.7% and a significant six in ten are unmarried.
Metro population: 190,526
Unmarried households: 42.1%
Cost-of-living score: 95.4
Median household income: $40,340
Date-night tab: $25.09
Nearly one in four Yuma residents is out of work -- a statistic that would scare anyone, single or not. In fact, this Arizona city, which borders Mexico, suffers from the nation's second-worst unemployment rate (23.1%) after El Centro, Calif.’s 26.8%, and it continues to see negative employment growth. That poses problems for singles looking to start jobs and, eventually, families. The 42.1% singles rate only adds to the challenge. Three-fourths of local households are families, and roughly half have kids younger than 18. Is it possible to find true love in Yuma? Of course. Just expect to look awfully hard. The brutal combination of a bad economy and a limited dating scene earns Yuma the top spot on our list of worst cities for singles.