30. Orem, Utah
> Median household income: $52,747
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 4.30%
> Median home value: $187,500
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 44.6
> Average commuter travel time: 17.2 minutes
Orem is one of the safest cities in the U.S. In 2012, there were just 41 violent crimes in the city, a rate of just 44.6 per 100,0000 people. For comparison, that year there were roughly 387 violent crimes per 100,000 people nationwide.
Job growth has been exceptionally strong in Orem in recent years. Between 2011 and 2013, total employment in Orem rose by 9.5%, among the fastest rates in the nation. Unemployment was quite low as well. Just 4.3% of workers were unemployed in 2013.
More broadly, the Provo-Orem metro area economy has grown relatively rapidly in recent years, even as the U.S. has struggled with slow growth. IHS Global Insight forecasts that the area will be among the fastest-growing economies in the nation through the rest of the decade. Orem is also one of the less expensive top cities to live in, with a cost of living roughly on-par with the U.S. overall.
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29. Madison, Wisconsin
> Median household income: $51,180
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 4.60%
> Median home value: $206,600
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 377.7
> Average commuter travel time: 19.0 minutes
Madison’s economy appears to be on a strong footing. It had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country last year, and moderate employment growth between 2011 and 2013. After declining 5.3% between 2010 and 2012, Madison’s median home value was nearly $207,000, still more than 25% higher than the state median.
One area where the city performs poorly is property crime. As of 2012, Madison’s property crime rate was much higher than the rest of the nation. The city’s poverty rate is also quite high. Nearly 20% of residents lived in poverty in 2012, compared to roughly 15.9% of people nationally, although this figure may be distorted by college students living off-campus.
The two lakes adjacent to Madison give the city an appealing, natural backdrop. Residents can take advantage of any number of the area’s golf courses and marinas. Additionally, the University of Wisconsin-Madison often hosts events that are open to the public.
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28. Hoover, Alabama
> Median household income: $70,583
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 3.80%
> Median home value: $251,300
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 104.5
> Average commuter travel time: 24.4 minutes
Hoover is located roughly 10 miles outside of Birmingham. The city ranked among the safest in the U.S., with a violent crime rate of just 104.5 incidents per 100,000 people. Also, just 5.7% of people in Hoover lived below the poverty line, versus 15.9% nationally.
While the typical household earned more than $70,000 — far higher than the national median — the cost of living was in line with national averages. The unemployment rate was only 3.8% in 2013, lower than in all but eight cities reviewed.
Hoover also offers residents many amenities. In addition to eight museums, nine theater companies and more than 20 golf courses in Jefferson County, the city has many natural parks and community playgrounds. The Birmingham Zoo is also a short distance away.
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27. Henderson, Nevada
> Median household income: $61,404
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 9.40%
> Median home value: $186,500
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 168.9
> Average commuter travel time: 22.9 minutes
Henderson is located south of Las Vegas in Nevada’s Clark County. Given the city’s proximity to the Las Vegas Strip and to many bars, restaurants, golf courses, and theater companies, residents have numerous entertainment options.
While it is the second-largest city by population, Henderson claims to be “the largest full-service city in the state of Nevada, providing residents all the essential services – ambulance, fire suppression, police, sewer and water services.” The city also features exceptionally strong schools, which considerably outperform their peers in the state.
However, Henderson has also been affected by Nevada’s major housing downturn. The median home value in the city declined 16.8% between 2010 and 2012, from $224,200 to $186,500. As of last year, Henderson’s unemployment rate was 9.4%, two percentage points above the national rate and among the higher rates in the U.S.
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26. Centennial, Colorado
> Median household income: $88,598
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 6.30%
> Median home value: $305,700
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 150.9
> Average commuter travel time: 24.7 minutes
Located a short drive south of Denver, Centennial is a family-friendly suburb of the Mile High City. The area boasts one of the lowest property crime rates of cities reviewed and very strong schools. Most notably, students in the area test very highly in science and math relative to the state and the nation.
The city offers many award-winning parks and outdoor spaces that are well connected by bike routes and walkways. The Centennial Center is a popular 11-acre park featuring playgrounds and open spaces. Residents also have relatively easy access to all of the amenities Denver has to offer, including a number of major league sports teams.
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