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America's Most Extreme Places

  1. Going to Extremes
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    Going to Extremes

    For better or worse, things do not exist in a state of balance in some places in the country. Take Largo, Fla., where the portion of the population aged 85 and up is more than three times the national rate. Or Escobares, Tex., a border town where per capita income is only $3,486 and the vast majority of residents live below the poverty level, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. These are extreme places where the population demographically, socially, and culturally exceeds normal boundaries. It can be hard to believe that in some places, children dominate the population, and in others, three-fourth of the population is female. There are also towns where people live nearly two miles above sea level and others that receive more than five feet of snow per year. While some might feel America has been homogenized to a great extent over the last century, data reveal that the country maintains pockets of very unique communities.

    Click here for more on some of the country’s most extreme places.

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  2. Oldest Population: Largo, Fla.
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    Oldest Population: Largo, Fla.

    Population aged 85 and older: 6.1 percent
    Median age in Largo: 47.2 years
    Total population: 73,222
    U.S. population aged 85 and older: 1.8 percent
    U.S. median age: 36.8 years

    Largo, a city west of Tampa along the Gulf Coast of west-central Florida, is home to the largest population of people 85 and older in the U.S. It also has the second-highest median age, after Melbourne, Fla., whose median age is 47.6. More than one-fourth of Largo’s population is 65 and older, compared with 12.9 percent nationwide, according to 2009 estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau.

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey 2009. Only includes places with populations of 65,000 or more.
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  3. Youngest Population: College Station, Tex.
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    Youngest Population: College Station, Tex.

    Median age: 22.1 years
    Total population: 86,676
    U.S. median age: 36.8 years

    The 39,000 undergraduates and 9,400 graduate students at Texas A&M University make the aptly named city of College Station the youngest in the country. More than half the population is between the ages of 15 and 24, according to 2009 estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau.

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey 2009. Only includes places with populations of 65,000 or more.
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  4. Poorest: Escobares, Tex.
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    Poorest: Escobares, Tex.

    People below poverty level: 92.5 percent
    Total population: 1,465
    U.S. average: 13.5 percent

    Escobares, a small town in Starr County, Tex., that covers about 1 square mile by the Mexico border, has the highest poverty rate among places with populations larger than 1,000. Many households in this city, incorporated in 2005, receive food stamp benefits or cash assistance. Median household income is $12,628, and per capita income is $3,486, U.S. Census data show for 2005-09.

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey five-year estimates 2005-09
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  5. Richest: Brookville Village, N.Y.
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    Richest: Brookville Village, N.Y.

    Median family income: $502,297
    U.S. median family income: $63,294

    Brookville, which Businessweek.com dubbed America’s wealthiest town in 2009 and one of the most expensive home markets in 2011, remains the richest among places with populations greater than 1,000. Based on data from Onboard Informatics, median family income here is about eight times the national median. Rolling Hills, Calif., came in a close second, with median family income of $495,967.

    Data source: Onboard Informatics, 2010
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  6. Least Educated: East Los Angeles, Calif.
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    Least Educated: East Los Angeles, Calif.

    Population aged 25 and older with a high school degree:* 46.5 percent
    Total population: 122,386
    U.S. average: 85.3 percent

    In 1968, more than 30,000 students from five East Los Angeles high schools walked out to protest the status of education, according to pbs.org. More than 40 years later, it appears the area’s schools still have room for improvement. Less than half the adult population has completed high school, the U.S. Census Bureau's 2009 data indicate. Demographics may play a role, as East L.A. remains an immigration hub: 46 percent of residents are foreign born, and in nearly all households a language other than English is spoken, according to 2005-09 Census Bureau estimates. Preliminary data from California’s Employment Development Dept. show the area’s unemployment rate in December was 17.7 percent.

    (Note: *Includes high school equivalency)

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Surveys 2009 (only includes places with populations of 65,000 or more) and 2005-09
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  7. Most Educated: Newton, Mass.
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    Most Educated: Newton, Mass.

    Population aged 25 and older with advanced degrees: 47 percent
    Total population: 84,596
    U.S. average: 10.3 percent

    The residents of Newton take education seriously: Nearly half the city’s adult population has master's, professional (such as law or medical), or doctoral degrees, more than four times the national rate. This affluent Boston suburb is home to several schools, including Boston College, Lasell College, Mount Ida College, Pine Manor College, Andover Newton Theological School, Hebrew College, and New England School of Acupuncture, according to citytowninfo.com.

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey 2009. Only includes places with populations of 65,000 or more.
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  8. Worst Employment Market: Imperial County, Calif.
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    Worst Employment Market: Imperial County, Calif.

    Unemployment rate: 28.3 percent
    Total population: 166,874
    U.S. average: 9.4 percent unemployed (December 2010)

    California has one of the country’s highest state unemployment rates, and nowhere is it worse than in Imperial County. In this area, in southern California near San Diego County, 28.3 percent of the workforce was jobless as of December 2010. These woes are not new: The county also had America's worst jobless numbers in 2009 and 2008, when annual average unemployment rates reached 28.2 percent and 22.4 percent, respectively, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Imperial County’s main industries are farming (20 percent of employment), retail trade (12 percent), and government (30 percent), according to state data.

    (Note: Only December 2010 county-level data were considered, excluding places that may have had higher unemployment rates in previous months but had not yet released December data.)

    Data source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 2010 preliminary estimates; population estimate by U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey 2009
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  9. Best Employment Market: Williams County, N.D.
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    Best Employment Market: Williams County, N.D.

    Unemployment rate: 2.1 percent*
    Total population: 19,644
    U.S. average: 9.4 percent unemployed (December 2010)

    As the country struggles with joblessness, North Dakota remains an extraordinary bright spot, having a 3.8 percent unemployment rate in December 2010, the lowest among the 50 states. So it fits that Williams County, in the northwest part of the state, had the lowest unemployment rate among counties nationwide. The rate remained below 3 percent in 2010, based on the most recent data available. The economy of Williams County depends on agriculture, oil, and tourism, according to the county’s website.

    (Note: Only December 2010 county-level data were considered, excluding places that may have had lower unemployment rates in previous months but had not yet released December data.)

    *Applies only to labor force. Data source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 2010 preliminary estimates; population estimate from U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Surveys 2005-09
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  10. Fattest: Fayetteville, N.C.
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    Fattest: Fayetteville, N.C.

    Fayetteville population overweight or obese: 74.3 percent
    North Carolina population overweight or obese: 65.4 percent
    U.S. population overweight or obese: 64.1 percent

    Obesity is a serious issue in the U.S., with 65.4 percent of Americans overweight or worse, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The problem is even more pervasive in such places as Fayetteville, N.C. In this metro area, home to the army post Fort Bragg, 38.7 percent of people are overweight and 35.6 percent are obese, according to CDC’s survey of 180 metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas. Looking at obesity rates alone (not counting overweight), Louisiana’s Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux metro area has the country’s highest obesity rate, 42.2 percent.

    Data source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2009
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  11. Fittest: Santa Fe, N.M.
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    Fittest: Santa Fe, N.M.

    Santa Fe population not obese or overweight: 50.8 percent
    New Mexico population not obese or overweight: 38.2 percent
    U.S. population not obese or overweight: 35.9

    The Santa Fe metro area may not have the same reputation for fitness as cities in Colorado, California, or Florida, but according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it has the lowest share of overweight or obese residents. It even beat out San Francisco, where a slightly lower 50.3 percent of the population is neither obese nor overweight. Part of it is due to high levels of physical activity in Santa Fe: In CDC’s survey, 39.3 percent of adult respondents engaged in 20-plus minutes of vigorous physical activity three or more days per week—one of the highest rates in the U.S.—compared with a the national median of 29.2 percent.

    Data source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2009
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  12. Most Men: Redstone Arsenal, Ala.
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    Most Men: Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

    Percent men: 87.9 percent
    Total population: 3,511
    U.S. percent men: 49.3 percent

    Is there a likelier place to find men than an army base? The population of Redstone Arsenal is nearly all male, with only about 420 women. Other places where the gender imbalance is striking: small towns with prisons or correctional facilities (though we did not include these in the ranking). The majority of the 1,697 people in Morgan, Ga., for example, are men in the Calhoun State Prison.

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey five-year estimates 2005-09. Only places with populations of more than 1,000 were considered.
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  13. Most Women: Bryn Mawr, Pa.
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    Most Women: Bryn Mawr, Pa.

    Percent women: 71.2 percent
    Total population: 3,689
    U.S. percent women: 50.7 percent

    This town, west of Philadelphia, has a disproportionately female population, according to Census Bureau estimates. The root of the imbalance: Bryn Mawr College, a women’s liberal arts school with an enrollment of about 1,300, according to figures from the college. In fact, several places with large female populations are college towns, such as Demorest, Ga. (home to Piedmont College, a majority of whose students are female) and South Nyack, N.Y. (home to Nyack College).

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau 2005-09 five-year estimates. Only places with populations of more than 1,000 were considered.
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  14. Most Kids: Kiryas Joel, N.Y.
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    Most Kids: Kiryas Joel, N.Y.

    Population aged 14 and under: 56.6 percent
    Average family size: 5.92
    Total population: 20,761
    U.S. population aged 14 and under: 20.3 percent
    U.S. average family size: 3.19

    Kiryas Joel, a primarily Hasidic Jewish village in Orange County, N.Y., has the largest population under age 15 among cities larger than 20,000 people. Most residents marry around age 18 and generally have large families with more than six children, according to kjvoice.com. "Growth in Kiryas Joel is inevitable, based on a variety of factors stemming from the culture of the community," according to the website. The population has grown to 20,761, from 13,138 in 2000, according to Census Bureau data.

    Among cities with populations greater than 1,000, Hildale, Utah, has the largest population of people aged 14 and under: 58.1 percent. Hildale is the center of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey five-year estimates 2005-09
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  15. Least Kids: West Hollywood, Calif.
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    Least Kids: West Hollywood, Calif.

    Population aged 14 and under: 3.5 percent
    Average family size: 2.5
    Median age: 40
    Total population: 35,741

    Los Angeles’ West Hollywood is known for having one of the largest gay populations in the U.S., which might explain the small number of young children in the area. Only 4 percent of households have residents under age 18, and more than half the population has never been married, according to Census Bureau estimates. A majority, 57.2 percent, of the population is male. Still, data on greatschools.org show the area does have a number of schools.

    (*Note: Places with few children often are very young, such as college towns, or very old, such as retirement communities. This ranking of cities with 20,000 people or more does not include such places, where age demographics are obviously skewed. The retirement community Sun City, Ariz., and the university town Isla Vista, Calif., otherwise would have ranked very highly, for example.)

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey three-year estimates 2007-09. Only includes places with populations of 20,000 or more.
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  16. Most Singles: Isla Vista, Calif.
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    Most Singles: Isla Vista, Calif.

    People 15 years old and older who were never married: 91 percent
    Total population: 22,751
    U.S. average: 30.9 percent

    Is there a more robust locale for dating than a college town? Isla Vista has an exceptionally large population of young singles, thanks to neighboring University of California, Santa Barbara, which has an enrollment of some 22,000. About 83 percent of the population is aged 15 to 24, and nearly all Isla Vista residents have never married.

    (Note: Only places with populations greater than 1,000 were considered.)

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey five-year estimates 2005-09
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  17. Most Divorces: Denison, Tex.
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    Most Divorces: Denison, Tex.

    People 15 years and older who are divorced: 20.3 percent
    Total population: 24,004
    U.S. average: 10.6 percent

    In this Texas town, near the Oklahoma border, about one in five residents is divorced, the highest rate among places with more than 20,000 people, according to 2007-09 estimates by the Census Bureau. Among Denison households with children younger than 18, roughly 41 percent are single-family households, compared with 31 percent nationwide.

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey 2007-09 three-year estimates. Only includes places with populations of 20,000 or more.
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  18. Most Married: Sammamish, Wash.
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    Most Married: Sammamish, Wash.

    People 15 years and older who are married: 71.7 percent
    Total population: 42,071
    U.S. average: 49.7 percent

    "The vision of Sammamish is a community of families," states the city website. This Seattle suburb must be a couple’s paradise: Nearly three-fourths of the population is married, and more than half of families have children under age 18. About 40 percent of the population is aged 35 to 54, and the elder population is small.

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey three-year estimates 2007-09. Only includes places with populations of 20,000 or more.
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  19. Most Immigrants:* Hialeah, Fla.
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    Most Immigrants:* Hialeah, Fla.

    Percent foreign-born: 74.4 percent
    Population: 218,901
    U.S. average: 12.5 percent

    Hialeah, Florida’s sixth-largest city, is part of Miami-Dade County. About 95 percent of residents are Hispanic or Latino, with Cubans representing about 70 percent of the population.

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey 2009. Only includes places with populations of 65,000 or more.

    * Defined as foreign-born, not non-U.S. citizen.
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  20. Longest Commute: Port Sulphur, La.
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    Longest Commute: Port Sulphur, La.

    Average travel time (one way): 69.6 minutes
    Population: 1,456
    U.S. average: 25.2 minutes

    Residents of this small town on the West Bank of the Mississippi River travel far for work. The most common industries in the city are mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction; education; and public administration, according to city-data.com. While some residents commute to New Orleans, about 50 miles away, many residents work in such places within Plaquemines Parish as Venice, where there is oil and natural gas activity, and Belle Chasse, home to a naval air station, a court, and other businesses.

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey five-year estimates 2005-09
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  21. Coldest: Fairbanks, Alaska
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    Coldest: Fairbanks, Alaska

    Average winter temperature: -0.6 degrees*
    Contiguous U.S. average winter temperature: 34.5 degrees**

    The climate can be brutal in Fairbanks, with average winter temperatures below 0 degrees. The mean annual temperature is 26.7 degrees, and the mean maximum temperature is 37.3 degrees, according to the Alaska Climate Research Center. The area gets an average of 68 inches of snowfall per year.

    Source: *The Daily Beast; **National Climatic Data Center, December 2009 to March 2010
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  22. Hottest: Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
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    Hottest: Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

    Average July daily high temperature: 111°F*
    Contiguous U.S. average summer temperature: 72.2°F**

    Lake Havasu City, on the eastern shore of Lake Havasu on the Colorado River between California and Arizona, has the highest average July temperature in the U.S. The city also recorded one of the highest temperatures ever in the U.S., 128 degrees on June 29, 1994. The desert in Death Valley has gotten even hotter, but this ranking focuses on residential areas.

    Source: *USA Today and Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book (W. W. Norton, 2007); **National Climatic Data Center, June to September 2010
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  23. Cheapest: Harlingen, Tex.
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    Cheapest: Harlingen, Tex.

    Cost of living index: 79.9
    U.S. average: 100

    The city of Harlingen is in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, near the Mexico border. The cost of living in this southern Texas metropolis is about 20 percent below the national average, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. While the expenses may be low, the area’s poverty rate is high at 35 percent of the population.

    Data source: Council for Community and Economic Research, third quarter of 2010
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  24. Most Expensive: Manhattan
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    Most Expensive: Manhattan

    Cost of living index: 207.9
    U.S. average: 100

    Anyone who has been to New York can attest to how expensive it is. In fact, the cost of living in Manhattan is twice the national average, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. Unfortunately, income there is not proportionally greater: Median household income is $66,818, only about 30 percent higher than the U.S. median, according to Census Bureau data.

    Data source: Council for Community and Economic Research, third quarter of 2010
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  25. Most Renters: Union City, N.J.
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    Most Renters: Union City, N.J.

    Homes* occupied by renters: 81.8 percent
    Total occupied homes: 21,583
    U.S. average: 34.1 percent

    Union City, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, is a city of renters. While most housing there is in multifamily structures, those who want to buy will find that homes are cheap compared with New York City. The median home value is $257,400, according to November 2010 data from Zillow.com.

    (*Note: "Homes" refers occupied housing units, which include houses, apartments, mobile homes, a group of rooms, or single rooms, according to the U.S. Census Bureau definition.)

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2009. Only includes places with populations of 65,000 or more.
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  26. Most Homeowners: Flower Mound, Tex.
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    Most Homeowners: Flower Mound, Tex.

    Homes* that are owner occupied: 90.5 percent
    Total occupied homes: 21,469
    U.S. average: 65.9 percent

    Flower Mound describes itself as a "family-oriented community," and most of the residents of this Dallas suburb are homeowners married with children. The median home value is $233,300, according to November 2010 data on Zillow.com.

    (*Note: "Homes" refers occupied housing units, which include houses, apartments, mobile homes, a group of rooms, or single rooms, according to the U.S. Census Bureau definition.)

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey 2009. Only includes places with populations of 65,000 or more.
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  27. Most Populated: Manhattan
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    Most Populated: Manhattan

    Population density: 71,505.7 people per square mile
    Total population: 1,629,054
    Area: 23 square miles
    U.S. average: 86.9 people per square mile

    Manhattan was built vertically, with tiers of people stacked on one another in apartment buildings and skyscrapers. That’s how 1.6 million people are able to squeeze onto an island only 23 square miles. Manhattan’s population density is more than 800 times the U.S. average.

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau Population Division, 2009
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  28. Least Populated: Yukon-Koyukuk census area, Alaska
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    Least Populated: Yukon-Koyukuk census area, Alaska

    Population density: 0.0387 people per square mile
    Total population: 5,627
    Area: 145,493 square miles
    U.S. average: 86.9 people per square mile

    In the expansive Yukon-Koyukuk census area, a landmass about the size of Montana, you’ll find pockets of people in several towns, such as Galena in the west and Fort Yukon in the northeast, but good luck finding anyone in between. The U.S. population density is 2,245 times that of Yukon-Koyukuk.

    Data source: U.S. Census Bureau Population Division, 2009
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  29. Highest: Winter Park, Colo.
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    Highest: Winter Park, Colo.

    Elevation: 12,060 feet

    After annexing the Winter Park Ski Resort in 2006, the town of Winter Park became the highest incorporated city in the U.S., beating out Alma, Colo., which has an elevation of 10,578 feet. For those who prefer to stay low, Winter Park’s "downtown" area is at a modest 9,100 feet, which is still too extreme for those prone to altitude sickness, which generally develops at elevations higher than 8,000 feet, according to emedicinehealth.com. Mount McKinley in Alaska holds the title for highest point in the U.S. at 20,320 feet.
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  30. Lowest: Calipatria, Calif.
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    Lowest: Calipatria, Calif.

    Elevation: -184 feet

    Calipatria, in southern California near Salton Sea, is the lowest incorporated place in the U.S., but a 184-ft. flag pole gives the city a point at sea level. The lowest point in the entire country is Death Valley’ Badwater Basin, which sits 282 feet below seal level.
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  31. Most Dangerous:* W. Lake St. area, Chicago, Ill.
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    Most Dangerous:* W. Lake St. area, Chicago, Ill.

    Violent crime rate: 257.7 crimes per 1,000 people
    Chances of becoming a victim in one year: 1 in 4
    U.S. violent crime rate: 4.69 crimes per 1,000 people
    U.S. chance of becoming a victim of violent crime in one year: 1 in 213

    Every big city has a jumble of very safe and very dangerous areas—and they can be just a few blocks from one another. Passersby should beware this corner of Chicago’s Near West Side neighborhood, which has the highest violent crime rate of all census tracts in the nation, according to real estate website NeighborhoodScout.com. The area has a high rate of poverty and unemployment, according to Andrew Schiller, founder and chief executive of NeighborhoodScout.

    (*Note: Only violent crimes and neighborhoods, or census tracts, with 800 or more permanent residents were included in this analysis.)

    Source: NeighborhoodScout.com
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  32. Most Car Thefts: Las Vegas
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    Most Car Thefts: Las Vegas

    Motor vehicle thefts: 20.3 per 1,000 residents
    U.S. motor vehicle thefts: 3.15 motor vehicle thefts per 1,000 residents

    Car theft is a problem in most urban areas, but in Las Vegas, which receives more than 32 million tourists annually, the problem is magnified. The figure above refers to car theft, but the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept., which investigates airplane, boat, moped, motorcycle, and trailer thefts, handles on average more than 1,400 stolen vehicle cases a month, according to the department’s website.

    Source: NeighborhoodScout.com
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  33. Safest: Pikesville, Md.
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    Safest: Pikesville, Md.

    Crime rate: 0.55 crimes per 1,000 people
    Chance of becoming a victim in one year: 1 in 1,818
    U.S. crime rate: 35.82 crimes per 1,000 people
    U.S. chance of becoming a victim in one year: 1 in 28

    This Baltimore suburb is the safest city in the U.S., according to NeighborhoodScout.com. Six violent crimes and 10 property crimes were reported in Pikesville in 2008, the most recent data available. The area’s median family income of $101,096 is above the U.S. median, and the poverty rate is lower, at 8.1 percent of individuals, according to the Census Bureau’s five-year estimates.

    Data source: NeighborhoodScout.com
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  34. Most Republican: Ochiltree County, Tex.
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    Most Republican: Ochiltree County, Tex.

    Percent Republican vote: 91.9 percent
    Population: 9,454

    In the 2008 Presidential election, this northern Texas county had the greatest percentage of Republican votes among counties with populations larger than 1,000. Although Businessweek.com selected Ochiltree County as the most Republican place, it actually ranks third if population restrictions are not considered. Texas’s King County had the largest share of Republican voters (93 percent), followed by Roberts County (92 percent), but these places are much smaller.

    Data source: University of Michigan Physics Professor Mark Newman
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  35. Most Democratic: District of Columbia
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    Most Democratic: District of Columbia

    Percent Democratic vote: 92.5 percent
    Population: 588,433

    D.C. voters are a largely Democratic bunch. It’s not just during the Presidential election, either. Records from the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics show the city has consistently elected Democratic mayors, council members, senators, and U.S. representatives.

    Data source: D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics 2008 Presidential election results; University of Michigan Physics Professor Mark Newman
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  36. Most Consumer Debt: Seattle
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    Most Consumer Debt: Seattle

    Average debt per consumer: $26,646
    U.S. average: $24,775

    Among the country’s 20 largest metro areas, the Seattle metro has the highest average debt per consumer, according to a story by Experian. "However, additional data [show] that Seattle’s consumers have very few late payments and are not maxing out their credit cards, so they are using their credit wisely and maintaining higher credit scores," Maxine Sweet, Experian’s vice-president for public education, said in a release.

    Source: Experian, May 2010
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  37. Most Frugal: Atlanta
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    Most Frugal: Atlanta

    Average savings from coupons: $1,030

    Atlanta shoppers aren’t afraid to clip coupons. In fact, residents clipped an average of more than $1,000 worth of digital coupons in 2010, more than twice the amount in 2009, according to a January analysis of 60 cities with populations greater than 300,000 by Coupons.com. The least frugal city in the survey? Long Beach, Calif.

    Data source: Coupons.com
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