Special Report

America's 50 Best Cities to Live

20. Santa Clarita, California

> Population: 181,559
> Median home value: $416,700
> Poverty rate: 9.2%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 33.0%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 214.3

Santa Clarita, home to 181,559 Californians, is one of the largest cities in Los Angeles County. Many of the county’s 378 colleges and universities — the most of any county nationwide — are based in Los Angeles, which is less than an hour’s drive from Santa Clarita. Area residents likely benefit from the proximity of the large metropolis, which provides education and jobs. Like California as a whole, homes are very expensive in Santa Clarita and not especially affordable. A typical home costs $416,700, more than five times the area’s annual median household income. Like most cities identified as some of the best places to live, Santa Clarita’s job market has grown faster than the nation. Over the two years through last year, the number of jobs in the city grew by 5.2%, several times faster than the nationwide employment growth of 1.8%.

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19. Hillsboro, Oregon

> Population: 99,374
> Median home value: $251,800
> Poverty rate: 13.6%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 35.3%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 180.1

One good indicator of a highly livable city is population growth. Over the decade through 2014, Hillsboro, Oregon’s population grew by just over 20%, close to double the national population growth rate of 10.6% over the same period. Crime is minimal in the city, with 188.6 violent crimes per 100,000 people reported in 2014, compared to a national rate of 366 incidents per 100,000 people. Air quality in Hillsboro, which is located about a half-hour west of Portland, is better than in most cities, with good air quality 96.4% of the time.

18. Woodbury, Minnesota

> Population: 66,799
> Median home value: $284,300
> Poverty rate: 5.4%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 60.2%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 145.2

Woodbury, a suburb of the Twin Cities metro area, is one of America’s best places to live. The typical household in Woodbury makes $94,155 a year, and a typical home costs only about three times that amount, making it one of the most affordable cities. Just 2.9% of Woodbury’s workforce is unemployed, the fourth lowest unemployment rate of any city in America. In Woodbury, low unemployment accompanies an educated workforce — 60.2% of adults in the city have at least a bachelor’s degree, twice the national attainment rate. The city also has the 11th lowest violent crime rate of any city, with just about 54 incidents per 100,000 residents last year.

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17. Palatine, Illinois

> Population: 69,357
> Median home value: $263,500
> Poverty rate: 8.4%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 48.1%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 256.6

Palatine residents benefit from relatively high incomes and a relatively low cost of living. The typical household in Palatine brings in about $70,000 annually. Meanwhile, goods and services in the city are about 2% cheaper than they are on average across the nation. Though located only 35 miles from Chicago, a city that has seen a surge in violent crime, Palatine is one of the safest cities in the country. With only 52 violent crimes per 100,000 residents last year, only nine cities in the United States are safer than Palatine.

Located in Cook County, the nearly 70,000 residents of Palatine have plenty of entertainment options. The county has about 113 golf courses and 12 zoos per 100,000 area residents — more zoos per capita than in all but two other U.S. counties and more golf courses than in all but 18 other U.S. counties.

16. Longmont, Colorado

> Population: 90,189
> Median home value: $256,400
> Poverty rate: 13.5%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 37.5%
> Amenities per 100,000 residents: 235.1

Located in Boulder County, Longmont is one of America’s best places to live. Longmont residents live less than 20 miles from the city of Boulder and have far more affordable real estate. The typical home in Longmont costs $256,400, less than half the corresponding cost than in neighboring Boulder. More than two-thirds of Longmont’s workforce is employed outside of the city. Because of Longmont’s central location in the Front Range, a populous region that includes Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins, residents spend a relatively short 24 minutes commuting to work on average. Over the past 10 years, people have caught on to Longmont’s relatively easy living. Its population has increased by 18.4% in the decade through 2014, about 8 percentage points ahead of the national population increase.

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