Special Report

America's 50 Best Cities to Live

Boca Raton, Florida
Source: Thinkstock

35. Boca Raton, Florida
> Population: 93,226
> Median home value: $402,100
> Poverty rate: 10.2%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 53.9%

Boca Raton is an affluent and safe city on the Atlantic Coast of Florida. It is also a popular retirement destination for many older Americans. The typical household earns $71,678 annually, far more than the $55,775 national annual median household income. Over the last five years, the city’s population grew by 10.2%, more than double the U.S. population growth rate over that time. As the baby boom generation ages, Boca Raton will likely continue its rapid expansion.

Boca Raton has also taken efforts to maintain a certain aesthetic. For example the city’s strict zoning codes does not permit outdoor car dealerships. Additionally, many of the buildings are designed with Mediterranean and Spanish colonial influence, the dominant architectural style during the city’s first wave of growth in the 1920s.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

34. Cranston, Rhode Island
> Population: 81,077
> Median home value: $223,300
> Poverty rate: 10.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.2%

Cranston is the most livable city in Rhode Island and one of the most livable in New England. City residents can take advantage of cultural venues in neighboring Providence, the largest city in the state, while enjoying some better living conditions in their home city. The violent crime rate in Cranston is only a quarter of the rate in Providence. Also, with a lower unemployment rate, working-age adults in Cranston are more likely to be gainfully employed than their counterparts in Providence.

Salaries are also relatively high among Cranston residents. The typical household earns nearly $62,000 a year, about $4,000 more than the statewide median income. High salaries in the city help to offset the area’s high cost of living.

Charleston, South Carolina
Source: Thinkstock

33. Charleston, South Carolina
> Population: 135,524
> Median home value: $293,500
> Poverty rate: 12.5%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 50.2%

Americans who prefer inexpensive housing and warm climates often relocate to the Southeast. Charleston’s population has increased by 13.1% over the past five years, more than three times the national five-year growth rate. Many new residents are likely attracted by the low cost of real estate in the city. Housing in Charleston is 20% cheaper than the national average. Charleston also has a warm, temperate climate, and the air quality is close to the best of any major city.

While Charleston is tourist friendly, with some of the most restaurants, museums, and hotels per capita in the country, the city also has a strong talent pool and manufacturing sector. More than 50% of all Charleston adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, a larger share than the 31% national attainment rate. The city also has a booming aviation sector that includes a Boeing facility and a U.S. Air Force base and contributes $13.8 billion to the region’s economy annually.

Bismarck, North Dakota
Source: Thinkstock

32. Bismarck, North Dakota
> Population: 70,240
> Median home value: $225,600
> Poverty rate: 12.9%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 35.1%

The typical Bismarck household earns $57,596 annually, less than the income of a typical North Dakota household of $60,557 a year. When adjusted for Bismarck’s low cost of living, however, the city’s median household income rises by approximately $8,000. Housing in Bismarck is about 45% less expensive than it is on average across the country.

North Dakota’s economy heavily relies on oil production. With the price of oil falling in recent years, the state’s economy has suffered too. Bismarck’s economy, however, has been more resilient, maintaining moderate growth and low unemployment. Just 2.3% of the city’s workforce is unemployed, lower than the respective 2.7% and 5.3% state and national unemployment rates.

Henderson, Nevada
Source: Thinkstock

31. Henderson, Nevada
> Population: 285,658
> Median home value: $273,800
> Poverty rate: 8.5%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 31.3%

Henderson’s 27.7% population growth rate in the past decade is one of the most dramatic booms in the country. Population growth is often — at least partially — attributable to businesses locating to the city. Due to a business-friendly tax climate, multiple companies and employers, including Ocean Spray and Levi Strauss and Company, have set up operations in Henderson. Between 2013 and 2015, employment in Henderson grew by 7.6%, more than all but a few U.S. cities.

Quality of life in Henderson is partially made possible by high incomes. The typical area household earns $64,035 a year, nearly $12,000 more than the statewide median income. Poverty is also scarce in Henderson. Only 8.5% of city residents live below the poverty line, the lowest poverty rate of any city in the state, and well below the 14.7% national poverty rate.

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