Special Report

America's 50 Best Cities to Live

Moving from one city to another is much more common in the United States than it used to be. No matter the reasons for the move — buying a house, looking for a new job, leaving home for the first time — it is always a major undertaking. A host of factors play an important role in deciding where to move, including the quality of schools, the strength of the local economy and job market, safety, culture, and even climate. Americans facing this decision have much to consider.

To determine America’s best cities to live in, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on the 550 U.S. cities with populations of 65,000 or more as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau. Based on a range of variables, including crime rates, employment growth, access to restaurants and attractions, educational attainment, and housing affordability, 24/7 Wall St. identified America’s 50 Best Cities to Live.

Deciding where to live, or whether your current city meets your standards, can be a highly subjective assessment. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Elise Gould, senior economist with nonprofit think tank the Economic Policy Institute, noted several personal factors that cannot be easily measured. The presence of a family support system or an individual’s personal preference for oceans or mountains, she explained, can have a major bearing on the decision of where to move — or whether to move at all.

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Gould also acknowledged that the reasons for relocating differ considerably depending on the person or family. With children, the quality and presence of public schools becomes important; as a young person, the age of a population may be a significant factor; and, for someone without a large disposable income, the presence of certain amenities may be entirely irrelevant.

Still, for most Americans, a few social and economic characteristics largely account for a city’s desirability and overall quality. “People move for work,” Gould said. For many families on the move, the prospect of obtaining a job is often the most important — if not the only — consideration. For this reason, 24/7 Wall St. weighed this factor heavily when identifying the best places to live.

In 45 of the 50 best cities to live, the annual unemployment rates are below the national rate, and with a few exceptions, all 50 cities reported job growth at least in line with the national job growth rate. Incomes in these cities, when adjusted for cost of living, exceed the national annual household income of $55,775 in the vast majority of cases.

Many of the cities on this list are very expensive places to live. In Broomfield, Colorado, even after adjusting for the city’s high cost of living, the typical household income of $76,231 a year remains well above the national median. Conversely, many of the best cities have a relatively low cost of living, and already high incomes therefore become even higher.

The populations of many of these cities are also growing very fast. Over the past five years, the populations of all but a handful of the 50 cities grew substantially faster than the national five-year population growth rate of 3.9%. Commenting on expensive cities with growing populations, Gould said, “the benefits must be outweighing those high costs.”


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