Special Report

America's 50 Best Cities to Live

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.

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