Living Can Be Cheap — and Boring — in Small Towns, but Here Are 10 Worth Considering

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Everyone who has ever lived in a big city remembers at least one time — or more likely, dozens of times — when they thought they should just pack it up and move to some bucolic small town in the middle of nowhere, where they could just slow down and smell the roses. Fortunately for the people who already live in those small towns, most big-city people who have those thoughts never act on them.

Living in a small town involves trade-offs. Housing can be much less expensive, but jobs can be scarce. And a small-town’s social and cultural offerings may leave a bit to be desired if you’re moving from a big city where the choices are virtually limitless.

But if your idea of a small town is, say, Telluride, Colorado, or some scenic town you visited once near a national park or other “wilderness,” chances are you can’t afford to live there, either because real-estate prices are sky-high or because there are few good-paying jobs.

Researchers at took a look at some 500 U.S. small towns, with populations of 10,000 to 50,000, in search of places that meet three qualifications: low unemployment, low crime rates and households that spend no more than 28% of their annual income on housing costs.

The researchers named 10 American cities (mostly in the Midwest) as places where city folk might actually want to live:

  1. Mexico, Missouri: median house price of $65,000; unemployment rate of 3.6%
  2. Guymon, Oklahoma: $76,000; 3.1%
  3. Decatur, Indiana: $81,000; 3.1%
  4. Oskaloosa, Iowa: $98,500; 3.4%
  5. Hereford, Texas: $98,900; 3.3%
  6. Worthington, Minnesota: $119,900; 3.6%
  7. Malvern, Arkansas: $120,000; 3.6%
  8. Ionia, Michigan: $124,000; 3.5%
  9. Wapakoneta, Ohio: $127,500; 3.7%
  10. Greensburg, Indiana: $139,900; 3.2%