20. Gilbert, Arizona
> Median household income: $79,916
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 5.20%
> Median home value: $209,300
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 95.7
> Average commuter travel time: 27.5 minutes
Less than 100 violent crimes were committed per 100,000 people in Gilbert in 2012, among the lowest crime rates in the nation. In addition to a relatively safe community, Gilbert residents have access to high-quality schools. Students outperformed their statewide peers in math, language arts, and science.
Gilbert has an impressive number of outdoor leisure activities available to residents. Maricopa County boasts nearly 140 golf courses, more than in any other county. Gilbert residents can also enjoy more than 5,600 restaurants in Maricopa County, which has a number of larger cities, including Phoenix, Mesa, and Scottsdale. Gilbert is also home to the Riparian Preserve, a 100-acre wildlife preserve with over 4.5 miles of trails and nearly 300 bird species.
19. Naperville, Illinois
> Median household income: $109,533
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 7.20%
> Median home value: $361,800
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 83.3
> Average commuter travel time: 33.2 minutes
Naperville, which sits along the DuPage river, is a suburb 30 miles outside of Chicago. The downtown area offers a number of charming restaurants and shops along the city’s nearly two-mile long riverwalk.
Adult Naperville residents are well educated. More than 65% had completed at least a bachelor’s degree, among the best attainment rates nationwide. Students also outperformed their statewide peers in math, language arts, and science standardized tests.
The median household income in Naperville was nearly $110,000 in 2012, among the highest levels nationwide. Given the city’s wealth, the cost of real estate was also quite high. Although home values in Naperville fell more than 8% between 2010 and 2012 — one of the largest declines — a typical home was still worth more than $360,000, much more than the state median of $170,600.
18. Charleston, South Carolina
> Median household income: $49,266
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 5.60%
> Median home value: $251,600
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 239.0
> Average commuter travel time: 21.0 minutes
Charleston is famous for its remarkable architecture and vibrant history. Charleston’s Fort Sumter was the site of the first military conflict between the Union and Confederacy. Charleston is also among the nation’s best cities to live in.
Charleston has above-average public schools, as measured by test scores, as well as numerous colleges, including The Citadel, College of Charleston, and the Medical University of South Carolina.
For homeowners, Charleston also offers low real estate taxes, with a median tax bill of just 0.57% of the median home value in 2012. However, home payments generally remained fairly expensive. Last year, Charleston County residents had to spend 29% of the median household income to afford payments on a median-priced home.
17. Richardson, Texas
> Median household income: $71,082
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 5.60%
> Median home value: $184,700
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 165.6
> Average commuter travel time: 24.4 minutes
Richardson is a suburb of Dallas that offers easy access to roads, as well as rail and bus services via Dallas Area Rapid Transit. The city is also home to such large companies as AT&T, Verizon Communications, Cisco Systems, and Fujitsu Network Communications. As many of the companies are telecom-related, the area is referred to as the Telecom Corridor.
Richardson’s job market is quite strong. Employment in the city rose by 4% between 2011 and 2013, and just 5.6% of the workforce was unemployed last year, both among the better rates nationwide. Area schools also performed quite well compared to the rest of the state. Dallas County residents enjoy access to thousands of restaurants, numerous museums, as well as professional sports teams such as the NHL’s Dallas Stars and the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.
16. Missouri City, Texas
> Median household income: $84,511
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 5.90%
> Median home value: $163,000
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 121.4
> Average commuter travel time: 29.5 minutes
Missouri City, a suburb of Houston, is one of the most crime-free cities in the country. Median income was $84,511 in 2012, nearly 67% higher than the state’s median income. While cities with high median incomes are often less affordable, the cost of living in Missouri City is only slightly higher than the living cost nationally, and the median home value was just $163,000.
Economically, the city does very well. Missouri City had an unemployment rate of 5.9% in 2013, versus a 7.4% national rate. Additionally, employment grew 3.3% between 2011 and 2013, which likely contributed to only 3.9% of Missouri City residents living below the poverty line. Missouri City is located in one of the most vibrant counties in the nation. Harris County has been studied by Rice University’s Houston Area Survey for over 30 years, in part because it “clearly exemplifies the trends that are rapidly refashioning the social and political landscape across all of urban America.”