24/7 Wall St.

America’s 50 Best Cities to Live

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Moving within the United States from one city to another is much more common today. No matter the reasons for the move — buying a house, looking for a new job, leaving home for the first time — it remains a major undertaking. A host of factors play an important role in the decision where to move, including the quality of schools, the strength of the local economy and job market, safety, culture, and even climate. Americans facing this decision have much to consider.

To determine America’s best cities to live in, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on the 550 U.S. cities with populations of 65,000 or more as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau. Based on a range of variables, including crime rates, employment growth, access to restaurants and attractions, educational attainment, and housing affordability, 24/7 Wall St. identified America’s 50 Best Cities to Live.

 

Click here to see the 50 best cities to live. 

Click here to see our methodology

According to Elise Gould, senior economist with nonprofit think tank the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), “most people move because of jobs.” Indeed, for many families on the move, the prospect of obtaining a job is often the most important — if not the only — consideration. For this reason, 24/7 Wall St. weighed this factor heavily when identifying the best places to live.

Of the 50 best cities to live, 41 have unemployment rates below the national rate, and all but five have had faster recent job growth than the national job growth rate. Incomes in these cities, when adjusted for cost of living, exceed the national household income of $53,657 in the vast majority of cases.

The affordability of housing was another key measure in our assessment of U.S. cities. The median home value in all but nine of the 50 cities exceeds the value of a typical American home of $181,200. Since housing prices are often tied to local and statewide market forces, a particular city’s home value was more often compared to statewide home prices. In all but a handful of the best cities to live, the city’s median home value was greater than the comparable state figure. In six of the 50 cities, a typical home was valued more than double the statewide value.

Click the pins on the map above to learn more about the 50 cities.

 

The ability to live safely in a given area is also a top priority for American families on the move. The violent crime rate, therefore, was another key measure when determining the best cities to live. Because violent crime rates tend to correlate with other measures of livability, these cities tend to have very low crime. The violent crime rate in the vast majority of the best cities to live is less than half the national violent crime rate of 365 per 100,000 residents.

Population growth was not part of our assessment of cities, but we excluded cities with negative population growth from our analysis. The most desirable cities to live in tended to have above-average population growths in the last decade.

As Gould observed, designing a singular index of this kind can be a challenge because people move to — and either grow to love or hate — a city for a variety of often-personal reasons. Indeed, while jobs are a major determining factor for a move, people often prefer to stay where they are because of other reasons. “And that could be city amenities, it could also be proximity to family and friends,” Gould said.

Many of the best cities are located near major cities, as this proximity provides residents with access to good schools while living in safe neighborhoods. It also allows them to enjoy the amenities available in the nearby larger cities.

Perhaps surprisingly, none of America’s largest cities are on this list. There is no New York, Los Angeles, or Houston among the best places to live. Nearly all of the biggest cities in the country by population had crime rates that automatically excluded them from consideration. Additionally, the largest cities tend to have higher poverty rates, making them less likely to qualify.

50. Fargo, North Dakota

> Population: 116,572
> Median home value: $171,800
> Poverty rate: 14.0%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 38.3%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 206.7

Based on a range of social and economic factors, Fargo, North Dakota is the 50th best place to live in America. Like other North Dakota cities, many Americans have flocked to Fargo, hoping to land one of the many jobs created by the regional oil boom. Over the 10 years through 2014, the U.S. population grew by 10.6%. In Fargo, the population grew by 31.3% over that period, one of the fastest growth rates of any city nationwide. Fargo’s annual unemployment rate of 2.5% is lower even than the state’s jobless rate of 2.8%, which is the lowest of all states. While population growth and a healthy job market are testaments to the area’s livability, Fargo is not especially affordable. A typical household in the city earns roughly $46,000 annually. While this is lower than the state’s median household income, homes in Fargo are valued at $171,800, higher than the median home value statewide.

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49. Irving, Texas

> Population: 232,413
> Median home value: $146,500
> Poverty rate: 17.7%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.9%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 178.6

Located just outside of Dallas, Irving is one of the most livable cities in the United States. The city’s population has grown by roughly 13% over the past five years to its current size of slightly less than a quarter of a million people. The city has also undergone a recent economic boom. Employment grew by 5.9% between 2012 and 2014, significantly higher than the national growth rate of 1.8%. Also, with a violent crime rate of 221 incidents per 100,000 people, the city is significantly safer than the state as whole, where the rate is nearly double at about 406 incidents per 100,000 residents.

Las Colinas, a 12,000 acre master planned community located in Irving, serves as the site of over 2,000 businesses and has a host of amenities, including public parks, jogging trails and country clubs. Irving is also home to the global headquarters of five Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil and Fluor Corporation.

48. Fishers, Indiana

> Population: 84,967
> Median home value: $220,000
> Poverty rate: 3.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 62.5%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 314.2

Fishers, Indiana’s violent crime rate of only around 21 incidents a year per 100,000 residents is an exceptionally low rate, even among the country’s best places to live. By contrast, the national violent crime rate is around 366 incidents per 100,000 Americans. The typical home in the area is valued at $220,000, considerably more than the state’s median home value of $124,300. However, the city’s median home value is just 2.4 times greater than the median household income. Nationwide, homes are valued around 3.4 times more than the typical household income. Not only is the housing market particularly affordable, but also at $101,030, Fishers’ median annual household income, adjusted for cost of living, is one of the highest in the country. Fisher residents are also very well educated. More than 62% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, double the national college attainment rate.

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47. Eau Claire, Wisconsin

> Population: 68,207
> Median home value: $136,300
> Poverty rate: 17.7%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 31.0%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 324.0

Only 4.5% of the workforce in Eau Claire, Wisconsin is unemployed, one of the lowest rates among American cities. Of those commuting to work, the average travel time is less than 17 minutes, a significantly faster commute time than in most cities across the country.

Outside the professional realm, there is no shortage of local entertainment options for the 68,207 people who call Eau Claire home. The city has about 25 fitness and recreational sports centers, four libraries, and another four movie theatres per 100,000 people. Most impressive, however, are the number of options for those looking to grab a drink. With about 113 bars per 100,000 people, Eau Claire has more bars per capita than any other city in the United States.

46. Missouri City, Texas

> Population: 75,128
> Median home value: $153,400
> Poverty rate: 6.7%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 41.7%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 138.4

The typical household in Missouri City, Texas earns about $91,000 annually. Adjusting for the area’s exceptionally low cost of living, the true value of median household income in the city is about $95,675, higher than in all but 17 other cities in the United States. Relative prosperity in the city is further bolstered by a low poverty rate. Only 6.7% of Missouri City residents live in poverty, less than half the 15.5% national poverty rate.

While Missouri City does not have as many eateries, movie theatres, museums, and bars as many of the most livable cities in the country, residents still have easy access to entertainment. Missouri City is less than 20 miles from Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States.

45. Bend, Oregon

> Population: 84,075
> Median home value: $292,800
> Poverty rate: 12.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 40.1%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 304.5

Originally named after Farewell Bend Ranch, the city’s name was trimmed to just Bend by the Post Office Department in Washington D.C. in the late 1870s. Over the last decade, the population in Bend, Oregon has grown by 27.2%. Today, the roughly 84,000 who call Bend home reside in one of the most livable cities in the country. The city’s unemployment rate of 6.6%, though slightly higher than the national rate, is lower than the statewide unemployment rate of 6.9%. The unemployment rate may also be a poor reflection of job market. From 2012 through last year, the number of jobs in Bend grew by 7.1%, far faster than the nationwide job growth of 1.8% over that period. Those in bend who commute to work spend roughly 15 minutes traveling. Only 11 cities in the United States have a shorter average commute time.

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44. Fort Collins, Colorado

> Population: 156,473
> Median home value: $271,400
> Poverty rate: 18.3%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 51.0%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 237.7

Home to Colorado State University, Fort Collins is a college town with a lower cost of living than most cities. Many businesses in the city likely benefit from the University’s roughly 32,000 students. There are about 18 bars, 19 fitness and recreational sports centers and 238 eateries for every 100,000 area residents, a larger share than in most U.S. cities.

Higher educational attainment typically leads to lower unemployment rates. More than half of all adults in Fort Collins have a bachelor’s degree, and the city’s unemployment rate of only 4.1% is significantly lower than the corresponding state and national rates of 5.0% and 6.2%. High school students in the city also score significantly higher on standardized tests than their peers across the state. Based on the city’s 10-year growth rate of 27.9%, which is far higher than the nationwide growth rate of 10.6% over that period, Fort Collins appears to be a highly desirable destination for Americans looking to relocate.

43. Hoover, Alabama

> Population: 84,352
> Median home value: $262,000
> Poverty rate: 7.4%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 57.7%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 474.2

The number of jobs in Hoover grew by just 0.4% from 2012 through last year, exceptionally slow compared with most other cities on this list. The city’s annual unemployment rate of 4.3%, however, is lower than the state’s rate of 6.8% and is one of the lower jobless rates in the nation. Due in part to the relatively favorable job market, Hoover residents also benefit from financial stability. The typical area household earns $72,728 each year, far higher than the national median household income and considerably higher than the typical income in Alabama, which is one of the nation’s poorest states. The typical home in Hoover is valued at $262,000, well above the median for homes nationwide and more than double the home value across the state. The cost of living in Alabama is lower than in most states, and the high incomes in Hoover go further accounting for the relatively inexpensive goods and services.

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42. Concord, North Carolina

> Population: 85,571
> Median home value: $166,200
> Poverty rate: 13.7%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 34.2%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 329.6

Of the most livable cities in the United States, few are as inexpensive as Concord, North Carolina. Goods and services purchased in Concord, located northeast of Charlotte, cost approximately 5% less than they do nationwide, and healthcare costs about 14% less. Relative to most cities, Concord also has above average air quality — only 16 counties have more days with good air quality than Cabarrus county, where the city is located.

Concord also has a disproportionately high share of attractions and restaurants for its residents. There are 329.6 eateries per 100,000 people in the area, compared to 238.4 per 100,000 residents nationally.

41. Cranston, Rhode Island

> Population: 81,029
> Median home value: $200,200
> Poverty rate: 11.0%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 26.1%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 181.4

A suburb of Providence, the city of Cranston is one of America’s best places to live. Despite having a population of only about 81,000, it is Rhode Island’s third largest city. Residents of Cranston, which lies along the Providence River, enjoy some of the best air quality in New England — 98.1% of days are spent in good quality. Residents also enjoy ample access to libraries and sports clubs throughout the city. Currently, just 3.2% of of Cranston residents commute using public transit, an inexpensive alternative to driving. A proposed commuter rail station may increase that figure. The city is fairly safe, with a violent crime rate of 131 incidents a year per 100,000 residents — significantly less than the rate in the rest of the state.

40. Port St. Lucie, Florida

> Population: 174,093
> Median home value: $146,200
> Poverty rate: 9.9%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 14.5%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 247.0

Located in South Florida along the Atlantic Ocean, few places in the country have attracted more new residents over the past 10 years than Port St. Lucie. Over the decade ending with 2014, the city’s population expanded by 42.1%. Though the median household income in Port St. Lucie of $47,129 is roughly inline with the income of a typical Florida household, the poverty rate in the city is much lower. Only 9.9% of Port St. Lucie residents live below the poverty line compared with the 16.5% of impoverished Floridians.

Port St. Lucie is also much safer than the state as a whole. Within the city, about 141 violent crimes are reported per 100,000 residents annually, a much lower rate than the roughly 541 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents across the entire state.

39. Palm Coast, Florida

> Population: 82,388
> Median home value: $159,300
> Poverty rate: 10.6%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 18.4%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 160.2

As one of the cities in Florida, which was one of the worst hit states during the housing crisis, Palm Coast was not spared the economic damage. To this day, there appear to be some lingering effects. Unlike the vast majority of the most livable cities, the annual unemployment rate of 7.4% in Palm Coast is higher than the state and national jobless rates of 6.3% and 6.2%, respectively. On the other hand, the area’s job market is growing. The number of jobs in the city grew by 5.0% from 2012 through 2014, considerably faster than the nationwide job growth rate of 1.8%. Despite the relatively high unemployment rate, the strong job growth is likely among the factors encouraging people to move to the area. Over the five years through last year, Palm Coast’s population grew by 14.8%, more than double the national growth rate.

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38. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

> Population: 77,787
> Median home value: $397,700
> Poverty rate: 6.2%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 56.7%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 252.0

The city of Mount Pleasant may live up to its namesake. Based on a range of social and economic measures, the city is one of the best places to live in the country. Area residents live a short drive from Charleston, South Carolina — itself a vibrant urban center and popular destination. In addition to the metropolis to the southwest of Mount Pleasant, Atlantic beaches span the eastern side of the city.

While South Carolina households are on the whole relatively poor, with an annual median income of $45,238, Mount Pleasant households are quite wealthy. The typical household in the city earns $82,358 annually. Also, just 6.2% of residents live in poverty — only about a third of the state’s poverty rate of 18.0% and considerably lower than the national poverty rate of 15.5%.

37. Boca Raton, Florida

> Population: 91,321
> Median home value: $370,100
> Poverty rate: 7.6%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 52.4%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 495.0

Boca Raton is one of five coastal Florida cities that are among the best places to live. The typical Boca Raton household makes $77,437 annually — more than 1.5 times the state’s median household income — and the median home value in the area is $370,100, which is almost 2.5 times the median home value statewide. A high cost of living, however, makes the real median income closer to $73,000.

The city is home to ample restaurants, libraries, theater companies, movie theaters, fitness centers, and golf courses, and a free bus service. There is about one golf course for every 1,000 people in the area, about 10 times the national average. The city’s affluent population is also well educated. More than half of Boca Raton’s adults have a bachelor’s degree, a significantly higher share than the 30.1% of American adults with similar educational attainment.

36. Gaithersburg, Maryland

> Population: 66,807
> Median home value: $380,700
> Poverty rate: 9.0%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 52.2%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 378.7

Located in the Washington D.C. metro area, Gaithersburg is one of the most liveable cities in the country. Likely due to its proximity to one of the country’s major urban centers, about 17% of Gaithersburg residents commute using public transportation. Only 4.4% of the Gaithersburg workforce is unemployed, much lower than the national unemployment rate of 6.2%. The city’s relatively low unemployment rate may be partially explained by high educational attainment. More than half of all adults in Gaithersburg have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

While the median household income in the city of $79,988 is higher than the national median of $53,657, cost of living in Gaithersburg is also higher. Across the board, the cost of living in Gaithersburg is about 25% higher than it is on average in the rest of the country.

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35. West Jordan, Utah

> Population: 110,917
> Median home value: $227,300
> Poverty rate: 8.6%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 23.1%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 153.3

Unlike most U.S. cities with the best living conditions, West Jordan’s population grew by 5.6% over the five years through last year, slower than the national growth rate of 6.5% over that period. Still, with low unemployment and poverty, as well as a relatively healthy housing market, the city is one of the best places to live. Just 3.6% of workers are unemployed, and only 8.6% of people live in poverty, each significantly below the respective national rates. The median home is valued at $227,300, well above both the state and national median home values. Relative to area incomes, housing affordability is just in line with the national home value to income ratio.

34. St. George, Utah

> Population: 78,509
> Median home value: $224,800
> Poverty rate: 15.2%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 26.5%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 256.0

Located in southern Utah, along the state’s border with Arizona, St. George is just a short drive from Zion National Park. Aside from proximity to a global destination with rich archeological history and natural beauty, St. George has many amenities that improve the quality of life for its 78,509 residents. The city is home to about 256 eateries, 26 fitness and recreational sports centers, four museums and five movie theatres for every 100,000 residents. Only 16 cities in the United States have more movie theatres per capita than St. George.

Though the city has plenty to offer in terms of entertainment, it lags behind the state in several economic measures. The typical household in St. George brings in about $48,000 annually, while the typical household in Utah earns about $61,000 a year. A higher poverty rate accompanies lower median household income in St. George. About 15% of St. George residents live below the poverty line compared to 11.7% of Utah residents.

The city’s economy has grown by leaps and strides in recent years, however. The number of jobs in St. George grew by over 10% over the two years through 2014, nearly the fastest employment growth in the country.

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33. Henderson, Nevada

> Population: 277,458
> Median home value: $243,600
> Poverty rate: 9.7%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 31.6%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 239.0

A suburb of Las Vegas, Henderson is one of America’s best places to live. The median household income in Henderson is $62,592 a year, and when adjusted for the city’s low cost of living, it is about $600 higher. Low property tax also helps keep money in Henderson residents’ pockets. Residents pay just 0.74% of their home value in property taxes, one of the lowest rates in the country.

Nearly one-fourth of the city’s labor force works in the arts and entertainment industry, and three casinos are among the top five employers. Henderson is also a fairly safe place. Just 165 violent crimes were reported per 100,000 people last year, more than 200 fewer per 100,000 than in the rest of the country. Located in the Mojave Desert, Henderson has a hot desert climate and gets about a quarter inch of rain per month on average.

32. Roseville, California

> Population: 128,593
> Median home value: $366,500
> Poverty rate: 9.7%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 39.1%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 338.3

Located just 20 miles from the state capital, Roseville is one of the most liveable cities in the United States. Though cost of living is about 15% higher in Roseville than it is on average across the country, the city’s poverty rate is only 9.7%, significantly lower than the national poverty rate of 15.5%. Area high school students score about 35% higher than students statewide on standardized tests. This may reflect a high quality of public education, which helps attract new families to the city. Over the five year period through last year, the area’s population grew by 11%, faster than the national growth rate of 6.5% over that time.

Roseville residents also have no shortage of nearby options for outdoor activities year round. There are about four ski resorts and 14 golf courses for every 100,000 area residents.

31. Temecula, California

> Population: 109,446
> Median home value: $369,000
> Poverty rate: 6.3%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 33.7%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 240.3

Temecula is not an inexpensive place to live. A typical home costs $369,000 — 4.6 times the median household income. This is the case despite the fact that Temecula’s median annual household income is more than $80,000 — well above the national median of $53,657. However, compared to the state of California, Temecula is more affordable. The typical home in the city costs about 90% of the price of a typical California home, and Temecula residents make 1.3 times what the typical state resident does.

Temecula is growing faster than most U.S. cities. The city’s population grew by 24.5% over the decade through last year, versus the national growth rate of 10.6%. Many Americans relocating to the city likely came looking for jobs, which the city has been adding at a healthy clip. The number of jobs in Temecula grew by 7.0% between 2012 and the end of 2014, well above the nationwide employment growth of 1.8%.

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30. Franklin, Tennessee

> Population: 70,613
> Median home value: $335,000
> Poverty rate: 5.9%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 58.2%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 359.7

With just 70,613 residents, Franklin is a relatively small city. As is the case with many other cities with the best living conditions, the Franklin area has a high barrier to entry — it is an expensive place to live, especially compared to the rest of Tennessee. The typical home in the area costs $335,000, well more than double the state’s median home value. Households in Franklin are well-off financially, with a median income of over $80,000. The city’s poverty rate of 5.9% is also considerably lower than both the state and national rates, at 18.3% and 15.5% respectively.

Area residents and their children are also relatively well educated. More than 58% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, and area students perform 70% better on standardized tests than their peers statewide.

29. Pembroke Pines, Florida

> Population: 164,625
> Median home value: $218,600
> Poverty rate: 8.7%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.0%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 72.3

With the Everglades to the west, Fort Lauderdale to the north, and Miami to the south, Pembroke Pines is one of the most livable cities in the country. Average temperatures in Pembroke Pines range from 69 degrees in the winter months to 84 degrees in the summer. Although cost of living in the city is about 19% higher than it is on average across the country, the typical household earns about $61,495 annually, significantly more than the $53,657 the typical American household earns. Like many of the country’s most liveable cities, Pembroke Pines is relatively safe. About 169 violent crimes are reported per 100,000 residents annually, significantly less than the 541 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents across the state.

28. Alexandria, Virginia

> Population: 150,575
> Median home value: $520,300
> Poverty rate: 9.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 62.8%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 257.7

Alexandria is one of two high-income suburbs in the Washington D.C. metro area that are among America’s best places to live. The typical household in Alexandria makes $86,809 annually, over $30,000 more than the national median income. While income is certainly high, real estate prices are higher. A typical U.S. home costs about 3.4 times more than the national median household income. In Alexandria, the typical home costs $520,300, or six times higher than the area’s median household income — making it the least affordable city on this list.

The city’s proximity to the nation’s capital — about eight miles — shapes its workforce . The U.S. Department of Commerce, headquartered in D.C., is one of Alexandria’s largest employers. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is also one of the area’s largest employers, and nearly one-fourth of workers commute using public transit. The southeastern city is highly educated. Almost 63% of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, more than double the country’s comparable educational attainment rate.

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27. Cape Coral, Florida

> Population: 169,855
> Median home value: $170,400
> Poverty rate: 12.5%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 21.9%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 116.0

Cape Coral, a city on Florida’s Gulf coast, is one of the best places to live in the country. One of the biggest draws to the city of roughly 170,000 people — apart from the beach-lined coast — is the city’s economic expansion. Between 2012 and 2014, employment grew by more than 10%, the fifth-largest growth of any U.S. city. Cape Coral’s violent crime rate is also half that of the national average violent crime rate of 366 incidents per 100,000 people. Though the cost of living is about 3% higher that it is nationally, the city’s poverty rate of 12.5% is lower than the national rate of 15.5%.

26. Chino, California

> Population: 84,743
> Median home value: $373,800
> Poverty rate: 9.4%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 17.2%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 174.6

A typical household in Chino, part of the Greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, earns nearly $80,000 annually, well above the national median income and 1.28 times California’s median. Chino has one of the fastest-growing economies in the country, with a 6.3% employment growth between 2012 and 2014. The city also has a poverty rate of 9.4%, much lower than the national rate of 15.5%.

As is the case with many of the most livable cities, Chino’s population has grown substantially recently. From 2005 through 2014, the number of people living in Chino increased by 21.5%, more than double the national population growth rate over that time.

25. Kirkland, Washington

> Population: 85,778
> Median home value: $480,500
> Poverty rate: 6.5%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 59.5%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 417.4

Like a number of other best cities to live in, Kirkland’s waterfront scenery on Lake Washington likely improves the quality of life of area residents. According to the city’s website, the presence of companies such as Google, which has an office in the city, and Nintendo, which is also a major area employer, has helped stimulate the economy over the past decade. The well-educated population has likely contributed to economic growth, as companies profit from skilled workers, and residents with college degrees tend to earn higher incomes. Nearly 60% of adults in the area have at least a bachelor’s degree, close to double the national percentage.

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24. Plymouth, Minnesota

> Population: 75,065
> Median home value: $322,300
> Poverty rate: 8.3%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 59.1%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 133.2

Located less than 12 miles from Minneapolis, Plymouth’s 75,000 residents do not have to travel very far to access a major metro area. Median annual household income in Plymouth is about $20,000 higher than the corresponding statewide figure of $61,000. Another sign of a vibrant economy, only 3.3% of the city’s workforce is unemployed — a lower unemployment rate than in all but 10 cities in the country. Crime is also less prevalent in Plymouth. With an annualized rate of 72 incidences of violent crime per 100,000 residents, only 19 cities in the United States have a lower violent crime rate than Plymouth. Low violent crime and unemployment rates may be partially explained by exceptionally high educational attainment. Nearly 60% of adults in Plymouth have a bachelor’s degree, roughly double the national share.

23. Camarillo, California

> Population: 66,932
> Median home value: $507,700
> Poverty rate: 5.0%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 41.3%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 219.6

Located less than 10 miles from the coast of the Pacific Ocean, about 67,000 people live in Camarillo, California. Homes in the city are among the most expensive in the country. While the typical American home costs about $181,200, the median home value in Camarillo is just over half a million dollars. Housing, however, is one of the only uniquely expensive commodities in Camarillo. Utilities, healthcare, and groceries are all cheaper in the city than they are across the nation on average.

Weather in Camarillo is relatively mild year-round. Average temperatures range from 55 degrees in the winter months to 67 degrees in the summer. The city also receives very little rainfall. While the average rainfall across the nation is 2.8 inches monthly, Camarillo gets an average 0.6 inches every month.

22. Folsom, California

> Population: 75,366
> Median home value: $445,700
> Poverty rate: 5.0%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 46.2%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 252.1

Folsom, located about 20 miles east of Sacramento, is one of America’s best places to live. Americans who relocated in recent years may agree. The California city’s population growth rate of 22.7% over the decade ending with 2014 is about 12 percentage points higher than the national growth rate. Today, Folsom is home to roughly 75,000 people. The typical household in Folsom makes more than $100,000 annually, nearly twice the national median income. Even after income is adjusted for the high cost of living in Folsom, the adjusted $92,000 income is still among the highest in the country. Just 5.0% of the city’s population lives below the poverty line, less than one-third of the national poverty rate. Folsom residents enjoy central California’s mild, Mediterranean climate, with an average temperature of 47.6 degrees in the winter and 73.9 degrees in the summer months.

21. Clifton, New Jersey

> Population: 85,920
> Median home value: $322,900
> Poverty rate: 9.0%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 34.6%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 265.4

Over the 10 years through 2014, Clifton’s population spiked by over 18%. Poverty is relatively low in Clifton with 9% of residents living in poverty compared to a poverty rate of more than 11% across the state. Clifton is located just less than 20 miles away from the largest city in the United States. Due in part to Clifton’s proximity to New York City, residents have access to 11 area airports, more than in any other city in the country. Additionally, just over 15% of Clifton residents commute using public transportation, indicative of a relatively well-developed infrastructure.

While Clifton ranks among the most livable U.S. cities, the cost of living is high. Across the board, goods and services cost 28% more on average than they do across the United States.

20. Santa Clarita, California

> Population: 181,559
> Median home value: $416,700
> Poverty rate: 9.2%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 33.0%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 214.3

Santa Clarita, home to 181,559 Californians, is one of the largest cities in Los Angeles County. Many of the county’s 378 colleges and universities — the most of any county nationwide — are based in Los Angeles, which is less than an hour’s drive from Santa Clarita. Area residents likely benefit from the proximity of the large metropolis, which provides education and jobs. Like California as a whole, homes are very expensive in Santa Clarita and not especially affordable. A typical home costs $416,700, more than five times the area’s annual median household income. Like most cities identified as some of the best places to live, Santa Clarita’s job market has grown faster than the nation. Over the two years through last year, the number of jobs in the city grew by 5.2%, several times faster than the nationwide employment growth of 1.8%.

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19. Hillsboro, Oregon

> Population: 99,374
> Median home value: $251,800
> Poverty rate: 13.6%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 35.3%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 180.1

One good indicator of a highly livable city is population growth. Over the decade through 2014, Hillsboro, Oregon’s population grew by just over 20%, close to double the national population growth rate of 10.6% over the same period. Crime is minimal in the city, with 188.6 violent crimes per 100,000 people reported in 2014, compared to a national rate of 366 incidents per 100,000 people. Air quality in Hillsboro, which is located about a half-hour west of Portland, is better than in most cities, with good air quality 96.4% of the time.

18. Woodbury, Minnesota

> Population: 66,799
> Median home value: $284,300
> Poverty rate: 5.4%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 60.2%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 145.2

Woodbury, a suburb of the Twin Cities metro area, is one of America’s best places to live. The typical household in Woodbury makes $94,155 a year, and a typical home costs only about three times that amount, making it one of the most affordable cities. Just 2.9% of Woodbury’s workforce is unemployed, the fourth lowest unemployment rate of any city in America. In Woodbury, low unemployment accompanies an educated workforce — 60.2% of adults in the city have at least a bachelor’s degree, twice the national attainment rate. The city also has the 11th lowest violent crime rate of any city, with just about 54 incidents per 100,000 residents last year.

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17. Palatine, Illinois

> Population: 69,357
> Median home value: $263,500
> Poverty rate: 8.4%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 48.1%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 256.6

Palatine residents benefit from relatively high incomes and a relatively low cost of living. The typical household in Palatine brings in about $70,000 annually. Meanwhile, goods and services in the city are about 2% cheaper than they are on average across the nation. Though located only 35 miles from Chicago, a city that has seen a surge in violent crime, Palatine is one of the safest cities in the country. With only 52 violent crimes per 100,000 residents last year, only nine cities in the United States are safer than Palatine.

Located in Cook County, the nearly 70,000 residents of Palatine have plenty of entertainment options. The county has about 113 golf courses and 12 zoos per 100,000 area residents — more zoos per capita than in all but two other U.S. counties and more golf courses than in all but 18 other U.S. counties.

16. Longmont, Colorado

> Population: 90,189
> Median home value: $256,400
> Poverty rate: 13.5%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 37.5%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 235.1

Located in Boulder County, Longmont is one of America’s best places to live. Longmont residents live less than 20 miles from the city of Boulder and have far more affordable real estate. The typical home in Longmont costs $256,400, less than half the corresponding cost than in neighboring Boulder. More than two-thirds of Longmont’s workforce is employed outside of the city. Because of Longmont’s central location in the Front Range, a populous region that includes Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins, residents spend a relatively short 24 minutes commuting to work on average. Over the past 10 years, people have caught on to Longmont’s relatively easy living. Its population has increased by 18.4% in the decade through 2014, about 8 percentage points ahead of the national population increase.

15. Overland Park, Kansas

> Population: 184,524
> Median home value: $235,000
> Poverty rate: 6.0%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 55.6%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 330.6

Over the 10 years ending with 2014, Overland Park’s population has expanded by 14% to its current size of 184,524 residents. While the poverty rate across Kansas is 13.6%, only 6.0% of Overland Park residents live in poverty. Also, at 3.8%, the unemployment rate is nearly a full percentage point lower than it is across the state. Low poverty and unemployment in the area may be partially explained by high educational attainment. More than half of the adults who live in Overland Park have earned a bachelor’s degree.

The city’s high school students outperform students across the state on standardized tests by about 11%, suggesting the quality of schools is relatively high.

14. Farmington Hills, Michigan

> Population: 81,440
> Median home value: $215,800
> Poverty rate: 7.9%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 54.0%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 386.8

Farmington Hills is located in Oakland County, about 25 miles from Detroit. While Detroit has been riddled with economic problems for years, Farmington Hills residents are doing relatively well. The city’s 7.9% poverty rate is less than half the 16.2% poverty across the state. Additionally, the typical Farmington Hills household earns about $70,757 annually, significantly more than the national median household income of $53,657. While incomes in the city are high, cost of living is relatively low. Across the board, goods and services cost about 6.3% less in Farmington Hills than they do on average in the United States. With about 116 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, Farmington Hills is also a relatively safe place. In Michigan, the violent crime rate is 427 incidences per 100,000 residents.

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13. Arvada, Colorado

> Population: 113,775
> Median home value: $267,400> Poverty rate: 5.7%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 35.9%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 236.4

Located in the Denver metro area, Arvada is one of America’s best places to live. The typical household in Arvada makes $72,031 a year, well above the national median income of $53,657. Residents also pay some of the lowest property taxes of any city, amounting to just 0.66% of the home value. Arvada is close to Denver and Boulder, where most of the workers are employed. Commuting time is is just around 28 minutes, which is actually slightly longer than average compared to other cities on this list. Arvada is also home to some of the best hospitals in the country, with some of the lowest rates of preventable hospitalizations and patients readmission of any city.

12. Virginia Beach, Virginia

> Population: 450,980
> Median home value: $261,800
> Poverty rate: 8.2%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 34.6%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 225.1

In the 10 years ending in 2014, Virginia Beach’s population has grown by 4.7% to more than 450,000 people. It is now the second most populated city in Virginia. Located along the Atlantic Ocean in the southeast corner of the state, the climate in Virginia Beach is mild. Average temperatures are around 43 degrees in the winter months and 78 degrees in the summer.

The city also does well by several economic measures. At $68,816, median household income in Virginia Beach is about $4,000 higher than the annual income of the typical Virginia household. The city also has a lower poverty rate. Only 8.2% of Virginia Beach residents live in poverty compared to the statewide poverty rate of 11.8%.

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11. Bismarck, North Dakota

> Population: 67,666
> Median home value: $195,800
> Poverty rate: 10.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 34.9%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 193.6

In Bismarck, the typical resident makes $60,752. However, when adjusted for the North Dakota capital’s low cost of living, this figure increases by about $9,000 to $69,678. The typical home costs $195,800, barely over three times the median income, making Bismarck one of the most affordable cities. Thanks in part to North Dakota’s recent oil boom, Bismarck also has the lowest unemployment rate of any city in the country at just 2.5%. The city’s workforce also has the shortest commute of any city at an average of just 14 minutes. The city also has the best air in the country, with 99.4% of days with good air quality.

10. Layton, Utah

> Population: 72,223
> Median home value: $212,500
> Poverty rate: 6.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 31.9%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 296.3

Layton, nestled between Salt Lake City and Ogden, is America’s 10th best place to live. The typical household in Layton makes $65,504 annually, and a typical home costs $212,500 — about $10,000 cheaper than home prices in Utah. Layton’s job market is also quite healthy. The city’s 3.7% unemployment rate is one of the lowest of any city, and employment grew by 7.1% in the last two years — 5.3 percentage points ahead of the rest of the country. Layton residents have ample access to restaurants, fitness centers, movie theaters, and one of the best hospitals nationwide. Davis Hospital has some of the fewest preventable hospitalizations and patient readmissions of any metropolitan hospital.

9. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

> Population: 78,759
> Median home value: $165,300
> Poverty rate: 14.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 24.7%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 292.0

Bethlehem’s population has spiked by 15.6% over the last 10 years, better than the national growth rate of 10.6%. Now home to roughly 79,000, the eastern Pennsylvania city is one of the most liveable in the United States. Every year, the roughly 5,000 students enrolled at Lehigh University return to Bethlehem, and as is the case with many other college towns, Bethlehem is affordable. The costs associated with healthcare, transportation, and utilities are all below the national average. The city, which formerly served as the headquarters for Bethlehem Steel, has an abundance of attractions and restaurants. The city has a significantly higher share of eateries, libraries, and museums than the nation as a whole.

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8. Waukesha, Wisconsin

> Population: 71,482
> Median home value: $182,300
> Poverty rate: 12.6%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 34.7%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 253.2

A suburb of Milwaukee, Waukesha is America’s eighth best place to live. Originally a spa town, people flocked to Waukesha in the late 19th century for its clean spring water and resorts. The Great Lakes city has a humid continental climate with mild summers and moderate rainfall. Today, people migrate to Waukesha — its population increased by 14.0% in the past decade, 3.4 percentage points ahead of the national growth rate — for its relatively cheap estate and low crime rates. Last year, Waukesha reported about 127 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, close to two-thirds fewer than the national violent crime rate.

7. Goodyear, Arizona

> Population: 75,676
> Median home value: $243,000
> Poverty rate: 12.1%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 24.8%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 211.4

The typical household in Goodyear earns roughly $70,000 annually, nearly $20,000 higher than the median household income across Arizona. Goodyear also has a lower poverty rate. While 18.2% of Arizona residents live in poverty, only 12.1% of Goodyear residents live in poverty. Goodyear is also a relatively safe place. With 132 incidences of violent crime per 100,000 residents annually, the city’s violent crime rate is less than half that of the state a whole.

In Goodyear, weather is usually favorable for outdoor activities. Average temperatures stay over 50 degrees in the winter months and hover just above 90 degrees through the summer. It is perhaps no coincidence that no other part of the country has a higher count of golf courses relative to the population.

6. Cary, North Carolina

> Population: 155,724
> Median home value: $298,800
> Poverty rate: 7.3%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 61.8%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 256.2

Cary is a wealthy suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina’s capital. Although the typical home in Cary costs $298,000 — $83,000 more than in Raleigh and almost twice the price of real estate in North Carolina as a whole — residents can afford it. The typical household in Cary makes $92,000 a year, almost twice the statewide median household income. Moreover, when adjusted for the city’s low cost of living, that figure increases by about $4,000.

Cary has one of the most educated populations nationwide — nearly 62% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree. The nearby Research Triangle Park (RTP), a corporate research center located between UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, and NC State, employs much of Cary’s qualified workforce. Only 3.7% of the city’s workforce is unemployed. A bulk of Cary’s workforce works in or around RTP, and just 3.7% are unemployed, one of the lowest unemployment rates of any city. Cary is also one of the safest places in America. In the past decade, the city’s population grew 44.9%, one of the largest increases nationwide.

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5. Eagan, Minnesota

> Population: 66,087
> Median home value: $243,200
> Poverty rate: 7.9%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 52.1%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 186.1

With a population of just over 66,000, Eagan is not an especially large city. However, located just across the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers from Minneapolis and St. Paul, Eagan residents do not have to travel more than 20 miles to access a major metropolitan area. Also, unlike the Twin Cities, Eagan is one of the safest cities in the country. Only 24 violent crimes were reported in 2014 making Eagan home to the sixth lowest violent crime rate of any city in the country. One possible explanation for the low violent crime rate may be the city’s low unemployment rate. Only 3.3% of Eagan’s workforce is out of a job, a lower unemployment rate than in all but 10 U.S. cities.

While the cost of living in Eagan is roughly 2% higher than it is on average across the nation, incomes are also higher. The typical U.S. household earns $53,657 annually. The median household income in Eagan, however, is $78,884 per year, about $25,000 more than the national figure.

4. Centennial, Colorado

> Population: 107,193
> Median home value: $328,800
> Poverty rate: 4.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 56.3%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 383.4

Higher educational attainment usually leads to higher incomes, and while only about 30% of American adults have a bachelor’s degree, more than half of all adults living in Centennial have a bachelor’s degree. The typical household in Centennial earns more than $91,000 annually, about $30,000 more than the typical Colorado household. The city also has a low poverty rate. Only 4.8% of Centennial residents live below the poverty line compared to a poverty rate of 12.0% in Colorado and a national rate of 15.5%. Centennial high schools also yield better results than high schools across the state. Standardized test scores are about 6% higher in the area than they are across Colorado. Growing slightly faster than the U.S. population, Centennial expanded by 6.6% over the five years through 2014 to its current level of roughly 107,000 residents.

3. Johns Creek, Georgia

> Population: 83,108
> Median home value: $332,700
> Poverty rate: 4.5%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 66.9%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 629.3

While Georgia generally fares worse than most states in many social and economic measures, Johns Creek residents benefit from high incomes, low poverty, high levels of education, and plenty of amenities. The median annual household income in Johns Creek is nearly $100,000, roughly double the state’s median income. Also, the poverty rate of 4.5% is considerably lower than the the national poverty rate of 15.5% and even more so than the state rate of 18.3%. High levels of education among area adults partly explain the high incomes and likely improve the quality of life for the local community in a variety of other ways. Nearly 67% of adults in Johns Creek have at least a bachelor’s degree, more than twice the nationwide corresponding education attainment rate and one of the highest of any city.

Johns Creek residents also have access to a remarkable number of leisure activities, especially restaurants. There are around 630 eating locations per 100,000 city residents, the second highest concentration of such amenities in the nation.

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2. Danbury, Connecticut

> Population: 83,795
> Median home value: $283,400
> Poverty rate: 11.5%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 33.3%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 260.2

The best places to live are not necessarily affordable. Danbury, the best U.S. city to live in after only Meridian, is in Fairfield County, Connecticut, one of the most expensive areas in the nation. The cost of living in the area is nearly 31% higher than the national average cost of living. Housing expenses, in particular, are very high, costing 58% more than the nationwide average cost. Households in the city, with an annual median income of $69,394, are slightly less wealthy than households across the state. A typical home in Danbury is valued at $283,400, slightly higher than Connecticut’s median home value of $267,200.

For many Danbury residents, however, the high standard of living may be worth the high cost. Leisure activities are easy to come by in the area. There are around 10 nature parks and 57 marinas per 100,000 area residents, each some of the highest concentrations of such amenities nationwide.

1. Meridian, Idaho

> Population: 87,739
> Median home value: $193,900
> Poverty rate: 10.9%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 27.7%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 169.8

Meridian, located just outside of Idaho’s capital city of Boise, is 24//7 Wall St.’s best city to live in. The city is safe, and jobs have attracted growing numbers of new residents. Only 80 violent crimes were reported per 100,000 in Meridian last year, a fraction of the national violent crime rate of 366 violent crimes per 100,000 Americans.

The annual unemployment rate in the city is also quite low. At just 4.1%, it is lower than the state’s jobless rate of 4.8% and well below the national jobless rate of 6.2%. Moreover, jobs are being added to the local economy faster than in most of the United States. The 7.4% increase in the number of jobs from 2012 through last year was much greater than the national job growth rate of 1.8% over that period. Prospective employment is frequently the first priority for Americans considering relocation. With the strong job market, Meridian’s population has been growing dramatically in recent years. Over the five years through 2014, the city’s population growth rate of 28.0% was more than four times the nationwide population growth of 6.5%.

Click here to see our methodology

 

Methodology
To determine America’s 50 best cities to live in, 24/7 Wall St. considered the roughly 550 cities that the U.S. Census Bureau reported as having populations more than 65,000 residents in 2014. Only the top performing city in each county was considered in our ranking. Data were collected in nine major categories: crime, demography, economy, education, environment, health, housing, infrastructure, and leisure.

Within each category, specific measures contributed to a city’s overall category score. For example, the economy category included median household income adjusted for cost of living, the ratio between a city’s and its state’s median household income, poverty and unemployment rates, as well as a city’s three-year employment growth. Each measure was adjusted to range from 0 to 1 using min-max normalization, with lower scores indicating better outcomes. In some cases, such as median household income, higher scores represented favorable measures. When this was the case, we inverted each index by subtracting the normalized score from 1.

Normalizing each measure, as opposed to aggregating category scores in other ways, allowed us to weight individual measures for added importance rather than entire categories. It also enabled us to expose the principal components of our index — those measures with wider variation that disproportionately determine the rank of a city’s composite score. The housing category, for example, had the widest range, giving it the greatest pull in our index. Crime and economy also had large variances.

We did not include any measures in the demography category in our composite index. However, this category provided exclusion rules. Cities that are better to live in often attract job seekers and their families. Conversely, labor market slack, unaffordable housing, high crime rates, or a myriad of other negative factors may induce people to move to a different city with better prospects. Thus, we excluded cities with negative five- or 10-year population growth rates. Population figures are from the Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey (ACS).

The crime category consists of both violent and property crime rates from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2014 Uniform Crime Report. High crime rates have the potential to make a city less desireable to live in. As a result, cities with crime rates lower than the national rates were rewarded, while cities with high crime rates relative to the nation were penalized.

A strong economy and labor market are, for some, the only considerations when determining where to live. The economy category includes a city’s 2014 unemployment rate and employment growth from 2012-2014, both from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, we considered the poverty rate, which, if too high, may deter prospective residents from moving to the city. Cities were penalized for having poverty rates above the national rate of 15.5%. Our goal was to identify cities that were liveable for everyone, not just the rich. Still, if incomes are too low, a city may not be desireable. To that end, we adjusted median household income for cost of living in the city. Cities were penalized if cost-adjusted incomes were less than $43,000 or more than $107,000, roughly 80% to 200% of a typical household’s income nationwide. Poverty rates and median income came from the ACS. Cost of living data came from Homefacts.

A strong school system may be another consideration for parents looking to move. As a proxy for school system strength, we considered high school standardized test scores relative to state scores from Homefacts. Test score data is for 2014, or the most recent available year. Additionally, the education category included the percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree from the ACS, as well as the number of colleges and universities in a city per 100,000 residents from the Department of Education.

For people who like being outdoors — either for work or pleasure — a city’s air quality and weather may be of chief importance. Whereas other measures in this index are specific to an individual city, many metrics in this category describe the county in which the city is located because weather is likely similar, if not the same, between those two geographies. Using data from Homefacts, we constructed an air quality index, which assessed levels of a number of pollutants on a given day. We also looked at average summer and winter temperatures in each area. However, rather than penalizing cities in, say, New England, for having colder than average winters, we compared each city’s temperature to seasonal averages within its own Census region. In some ways, this allowed us to capture people’s expectations of a city’s temperature. For example, without knowing the precise location of Eagan, Minnesota, the fifth best city to live in, one might expect the city to have cold winters given the region in which the city is located. We also considered average monthly rainfall from Homefacts.

Access to quality hospitals may be another reason Americans live in the places they do. From the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), we calculated 30-day risk-adjusted mortality rates of heart attacks, COPD, heart failure, pneumonia, and stroke. Also from CMS, we looked at the rate at which individuals were readmitted to a hospital within 30 days of being discharged. Additionally, we included the Leapfrog Group’s hospital grading, which considers a host of measures related to a hospital’s care delivery and patient response surveys. This category also includes preventable hospitalizations — the share of hospitalizations that could have been treated with outpatient or ambulatory care for every 1,000 Medicare recipients from County Health Rankings.

For many American homeowners, homes constitute the vast majority of wealth. An investment of this magnitude requires careful consideration and may be the chief reason that people decide to live where they do. In our housing index, we considered the ratio of a city’s median home value to the statewide median value. Cities were penalized if home values in a city were less than 90% of statewide home values. Conversely, if home values were typically 25% higher in the city than across the state, high barriers to entry exist that can make a city unaffordable. As an additional measure of affordability, we included the ratio of median home value to median household income. This ratio — called a price-to-income ratio — helps identify cities that are liveable for a broad audience. We also considered median property taxes as a percentage of median home value. All data in this category came from the 2014 ACS.

Proximity to work may be another factor in determining where to live. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Americans waste nearly 7 billion hours — or $160 billion — to commuter traffic congestion. From the ACS, we considered the percentage of commuters travelling to work by foot or public transportation. Additionally, we reviewed the average time it takes to travel to work each day. Lastly, we included the number of airports in the metro area in which the city is located. There are, for example, no airports in New York County, the primary county in New York City. However, at least three major airports exist outside county limits — and within the metro area — that service people who live in the city. Airport data came from the Federal Aviation Administration and only considers operational public-use and commercial airports as of 2015.

The leisure category can be broken into two parts — activities that take place in the city and outside it. Within a city, residents may take advantage of restaurants and bars, libraries and archives, theater companies, fitness and recreational sports centers, museums, movie theaters, hotels, or support amateur and professional sports teams. To engage in other pastimes — skiing, for example — residents likely have to leave city limits. Thus, we included in this index the number of zoos, nature parks, ski resorts, and golf courses in the county surrounding the city. All data in this category were aggregated to the city level from 2013 Zip Code Business Patterns, a program maintained by the Census and adjusted for the city’s 2014 population.

Correction: In an earlier version of this article we incorrectly reported that St. George, Utah borders Colorado. In fact, St. George borders Arizona.