40. West Jordan, Utah
> Median household income: $65,936
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 4.00%
> Median home value: $201,500
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 185.8
> Average commuter travel time: 24.5 minutes
West Jordan lies just south of Salt Lake City and is the fourth largest city in Utah. Residents have easy access to four ski resorts — Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude — within Salt Lake County alone. They also have easy access to professional sports teams, such as the NBA’s Utah Jazz and Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake.
In recent years, West Jordan has had a robust job market. Total employment rose by more than 9% in just two years through 2013, and the unemployment rate in the city was just 4% last year. By both measures, West Jordan was among the top-rated cities in the U.S. Further, the overall cost of living in the city is low relative to other top cities.
39. Layton, Utah
> Median household income: $66,439
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 4.40%
> Median home value: $196,600
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 121.0
> Average commuter travel time: 22.6 minutes
Just east of the Great Salt Lake, Layton sits at the base of a scenic mountain region. Thurston Peak, a 9,700 foot mountain in the Wasatch range, offers great access to hiking, biking, and camping. In the winter, residents can easily ski this range by traveling a short distance to Snowbasin.
Even with these amenities, living in Layton is quite affordable. The city’s cost of living is roughly in line with the national average, while home prices are lower than in many other top-rated cities. Additionally, Layton is very safe. The city reported 84 violent crimes in 2012, one of the lowest violent crime rates of any city reviewed.
One concern for some residents in Layton may be a lack of nightlife and access to other activities. The area had among the lowest concentrations of bars and restaurants in the nation.
38. Rio Rancho, New Mexico
> Median household income: $60,512
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 7.20%
> Median home value: $169,200
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 225.8
> Average commuter travel time: 31.1 minutes
Rio Rancho is located north of Albuquerque, across the Rio Grande river. The city’s violent and property crime rates were well below the national benchmarks. Rio Rancho also has a relatively low cost of living compared to other top-ranked cities. Its schools are among the best scoring in the nation in math, science and language arts, and perform exceptionally well compared to their in-state peers.
Year-round golfing and community events, such as the annual Taste of Rio Rancho food fair and Pork & BBQ State Championships, also add appeal.
Of course, the city is not perfect. The average commute time in Rio Rancho was just over half an hour, among the longest commute times in the U.S. Additionally, less than 2% of residents regularly commuted to work by either public transportation or walking, an extremely low figure compared to other U.S. cities.
37. Virginia Beach, Virginia
> Median household income: $61,626
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 5.30%
> Median home value: $259,500
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 169.4
> Average commuter travel time: 22.6 minutes
Virginia Beach is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with more than 440,000 residents. Low crime and low unemployment are among its most attractive features. In 2012, the city reported just 169 violent crimes per 100,000 people, lower than most cities. Last year, just over 5% of the workforce was unemployed, versus 7.4% nationwide.
The U.S. military has a large presence in Virginia Beach, with the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marine Corps all maintaining facilities in the metro area, according to the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development. The military is also a major employer in the city and surrounding area. The Naval Air Station Oceana, including its Dam Neck Annex, has more than 10,000 military personnel and employs more than 5,000 civilians.
36. Cranston, Rhode Island
> Median household income: $58,992
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 9.50%
> Median home value: $205,900
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 161.9
> Average commuter travel time: 22.0 minutes
Cranston is located in Providence County and is the third-largest city in Rhode Island. While the city’s poverty rate was just 9.2%, well below the national rate, and a relatively high percentage of its school-age residents attend private schools, Cranston has had some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Just under 30% of residents had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2012, slightly above the national rate of 29.1% but below many of the cities on this list.
With a median income of nearly $59,000, higher than the median statewide income, Cranston residents are relatively well off. And the population has plenty of leisure activities to choose from. There were 166 places to get a drink, and 39 libraries in Providence County. The city touts its 3.5 miles of shoreline along the Providence River, located where the river broadens into Narragansett Bay. Cranston’s multiple nationally-recognized historic districts and low crime rates also make it an attractive place to live.