Special Report

America's 50 Best Cities to Live

Source: Wikimedia Commons

15. Maple Grove, Minnesota
> Population: 68,381
> Median home value: $276,300
> Poverty rate: 1.9%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 51.5%

Poverty can have far-reaching negative effects on the safety and health of a city, but not in Maple Grove. While nationwide 14.7% of residents live below the poverty line, in Maple Grove just 1.9% of residents do. This is likely tied to the fact that very few workers in the city are unable to find a job. The city’s 2.9% unemployment rate is among the lowest of any U.S. city.

Property values in the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb are relatively high, with a median home value of $276,300. Nationwide, the typical U.S. home in a city is worth less than $200,000. However, very high incomes in the city help offset the higher home prices. The median home price is worth only 3.1 times the area’s median household income, compared to the U.S. average of 3.5.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

14. Cary, North Carolina
> Population: 160,514
> Median home value: $322,200
> Poverty rate: 4.5%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 63.6%

Located within a short commute of Cary are a handful of premier research universities, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and North Carolina State University. The universities are part of the Research Triangle Park, a hub of tech companies and a major economic power in the region. Cary’s proximity to such educational and occupational employment opportunities is likely one reason behind the city’s talent pool. The share of Cary adults with at least a bachelor’s degree, at 63.6%, is among the largest of any city.

As more residents relocate to Cary, the town’s success story continues to develop. Over the past decade, the city’s population growth rate of nearly 50% was more than in nearly every other city. The number of jobs increased accordingly, growing 7.5% between 2013 and 2015 — as unemployment stayed low. Just 3.8% of the city’s workforce is unemployed, far lower than the national 5.3% unemployment rate.

Bluebirds, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Source: Thinkstock

13. Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
> Population: 107,595
> Median home value: $162,300
> Poverty rate: 8.0%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.7%

Broken Arrow is one of the most affordable cities in the country. The price of a typical home is $162,300, or 2.3 times the area’s median household income of $70,242 a year. Meanwhile, a typical U.S. home sells for $194,500, or 3.5 times the national median annual income of $55,775. This effectively means homeowners in Broken Arrow pay about 14 months less worth of income when purchasing a home than the typical American.

While Broken Arrow residents are relatively wealthy, the 29.7% of area adults with at least a bachelor’s degree is a smaller share than is typical in high-income cities. Residents without degrees may find high-paying jobs in the city’s expansive manufacturing industry. Broken Arrow has the third highest concentration of manufacturers in Oklahoma, including companies such as flight simulator developer FlightSafety International, oilfield machinery manufacturer Zeeco, and ice cream maker Blue Bell Creameries.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

12. Woodbury, Minnesota
> Population: 67,850
> Median home value: $296,700
> Poverty rate: 4.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 60.5%

Woodbury residents enjoy some of the best quality of life nationwide. The typical household earns $101,481 a year, far more than than the $55,775 a year a typical household earns nationwide. Just a short drive down I-94 from St. Paul and Minneapolis, much of the Woodbury economy is tied to the Twin Cities area. The easy access to the occupational opportunities of a major metropolitan area may be one reason why just 2.6% of the Woodbury workforce is unemployed, less than half the national unemployment rate.

While Woodbury residents enjoy the economic advantages of the Twin Cities, they are less exposed to the dangerous aspects of a large city. There were 703 violent crimes in St. Paul and 1,063 violent crimes in Minneapolis per 100,000 residents in 2015. By contrast, just 52 violent crimes per 100,000 residents were reported in Woodbury.

Olathe, Kansas
Source: Wikimedia Commons

11. Olathe, Kansas
> Population: 134,316
> Median home value: $207,700
> Poverty rate: 6.0%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 47.0%

Relative to local incomes, real estate in Olathe is some of the most affordable in the country. Though the $207,000 value of a typical home in Olathe is approximately $67,000 more than the comparable statewide figure, the higher cost is offset by higher incomes. The typical Olathe household earns $80,242 a year, making the ratio of income to home value among the most affordable in the country.

With high incomes and a proportionately high housing costs, few Olathe residents struggle to make ends meet. Just 6% of Olathe residents live in poverty, less than half the national poverty rate. Like many cities where poverty is scarce, violent crime is relatively uncommon in Olathe. There were just 113 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in the city in 2015, among the least nationwide.

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