American cities vary across a wide array of definitions of “best,” “best places to live,” “fast-growing” and “best to work.” Usually, the cities that do the most poorly are the old industrial cities like Detroit and Cleveland. The best cities are often those with large universities and high wages; San Jose, for example. Best places to live generally are smaller but have highly educated populations, low crime rates, good health care and outstanding municipal services.
The well-known Milken Institute, founded by the disgraced former junk bond trader who was sentenced to 10 years in jail and fined $600 million, has issued its “Best Performing Cities 2021: Foundations for Growth and Recovery.”
Some U.S. cities that did well were large, based on population, but that was not the case for many that were in the higher echelon of the rankings. Size isn’t everything, of course. According to World Population Review, the 10 largest U.S. cities by population are (in this order): New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas and San Jose. Yet in the Milken ranking of the nation’s best-performing cities for 2021, only three of those (Phoenix, Dallas and San Jose) were in the top 25 on the Milken list.
What does it mean to be a best-performing city? The institute bases its scores on an index of “jobs, wages, and high-tech growth while incorporating new measures of housing affordability and household broadband access.”
To identify the best-performing large city in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the Milken Institute’s overall ranking of city performance. Each city’s score from last year is also included in the report. Total population figures come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey one-year estimates.
The top large city on this list is Provo, Utah, home to Brigham Young University. Utah also placed fourth with Salt Lake City. Palm Bay, Florida, on the state’s Atlantic Coast, ranked number two. Rounding out the top five were Austin, Texas, (number three) and Raleigh, North Carolina, (number five), both known for their universities and concentration of tech businesses.
Provo, Utah, ranked second in the 2020 study. It has a population of 649,603