Special Report

America's 50 Best Cities to Live

30. Clifton, New Jersey
> Population: 86,341
> Median home value: $331,800
> Poverty rate: 10.9%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 27.3%

Clifton is one of the best cities to live in the country, at least in part due to its accessibility. There are 11 airports within a reasonable distance of the northern New Jersey city, while most cities have no more than five within reasonable distance. City residents also have substantial access to public transportation.

Clifton is located within commuting distance of New York City, and residents benefit from the jobs and cultural attractions that come from living near a major city. Even without traveling to NYC, Clifton is rich with restaurants, bars, and movie theaters. Perhaps evidence of the quality of life in Clifton, the city’s population has exploded over the past 10 years, increasing by 18.8% compared to the 11.5% U.S. population growth over the same period.

Pembroke Pines, Florida
Source: Thinkstock

29. Pembroke Pines, Florida
> Population: 166,624
> Median home value: $249,500
> Poverty rate: 5.2%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 37.0%

With the Everglades to the west, Fort Lauderdale to the north, and Miami to the south, Pembroke Pines residents have access to a range of outdoor activities and other amenities. Average temperatures in Pembroke Pines range from about 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months to 83 degrees in the summer, a climate likely considered by many residents an advantage to living in the area.

While the typical household in the city earns more than the typical household nationwide, after adjusting for cost of living, household income levels in Pembroke Pines fall well below national levels. Though living in Pembroke Pines is not cheap, it is relatively safe. Approximately 221 violent crimes were reported last year per 100,000 residents, far less than the 462 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents across Florida.

Aerial Cityscape Kirkland, Washington Boat Harbor
Source: Thinkstock

28. Kirkland, Washington
> Population: 87,267
> Median home value: $529,200
> Poverty rate: 6.3%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 58.3%

Financially well-off people are not necessarily the most satisfied with their cities. However, high incomes usually ensure that at least basic necessities are met and are a strong indication of regional economic health. High incomes also tend to accompany other desirable social measures. This appears to be the case in Kirkland, Washington. Even after adjusting for the relatively high cost of living, the typical household in the city earns more than $100,000 annually, nearly double the national median household income.

Even among the nation’s best cities, most report more than 100 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in a year. Kirkland’s violent crime rate, at 89 per 100,000 residents, is exceptionally low and in stark contrast with the national violent crime rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 U.S. residents.

Rio Rancho with Sandia Mountains, New Mexico
Source: Thinkstock

27. Rio Rancho, New Mexico
> Population: 94,155
> Median home value: $180,900
> Poverty rate: 8.7%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.2%

Rio Rancho’s population growth rate of nearly 50% over the 10 years through 2015 is considerably faster than the 10-year national population growth rate of 11.5%. Such growth can usually be attributed to a thriving job market. However, employment growth in Rio Rancho has slowed in recent years. The number of jobs in the city grew by just 1.5% from 2013 through last year, slower than the nationwide employment growth of 4.0% over that period. Similarly, unlike most of the cities on this list, the unemployment rate of 6.1% is higher than the annual national rate.

However, Rio Rancho still has plenty of economic advantages. The poverty rate of 8.7%, for example, is well below the national rate and less than half the New Mexico rate. Also, while affordable neighborhoods are frequently located in relatively poor areas, Rio Rancho is both wealthy and relatively affordable.

Layton, Utah
Source: Wikimedia Commons

26. Layton, Utah
> Population: 74,142
> Median home value: $220,000
> Poverty rate: 9.7%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.5%

Layton residents live within commuting distance of Salt Lake City, giving them easy access to the cultural amenities of the largest city in the state without the higher cost of living or the higher crime rates.

In the last half decade, population growth in Layton has outpaced that of every other city in Utah with the exception of St. George. The city’s five-year 9.7% population growth rate is nearly three times the national population growth rate over the same time period.

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