America’s 50 Best Cities to Live

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Detailed Findings

A city’s vitality is often dependant on the strength of its economy. And a healthy economy often goes hand in hand with a healthy job market. For many Americans, job opportunities are the most important factor in choosing a place to live. The unemployment rate in only two of the 50 cities on this list with available data is higher than the nationwide 2016 jobless rate of 4.9%. Similarly, job growth in most of the best cities to live in was higher than average from 2014 through 2016.

Cities with strong, vibrant economies are less likely to have large shares of residents struggling financially. The poverty rate in only three of the 50 cities on this list is higher than the U.S. rate of 14.0%.

Educated populations are more resilient to economic downturns as a college education tends to lead to greater job opportunities and higher-paying jobs. Partially as a result, 42 of the 50 towns on this list are home to a larger share of college-educated adults than the 31.3% share of adults nationwide.

Just as solid employment figures can create a virtuous cycle of prosperity in U.S. cities, the presence of violent crime can be detrimental to a city’s livability, undermining growth. With only one exception, the violent crime rate in every city on this list for which data is available is lower than the U.S. rate as a whole. In Johns Creek, Georgia, for example, the fourth best city to live in, there were only 14 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in 2016 — a fraction of the U.S. violent crime rate of 386 incidents per 100,000 people.

Desireable, vibrant communities are often expensive — prohibitively so for most Americans. Indeed, the cost of goods and services is substantially higher than the average cost nationwide in about a dozen of the cities on this list. Still, affordability is a major consideration for Americans who are looking to relocate. As a result, in about half of the cities on this list housing is more affordable than the nation as a whole, as measured by median household income as a percentage of the typical cost of a home.

A major contributing factor to a given city’s desirability is the presence of cultural amenities and entertainment venues. The majority of cities on this list have a greater concentration of restaurants and eateries or cultural amenities such as museums or theatres than is typical nationwide. Further, most of the best cities have relatively easy access to similar attractions in nearby major cities such as Denver, Minneapolis, New York, and Washington D.C.

Not surprisingly, the cities on this list are attractive to growing families and new residents. Well over half of the best cities have reported faster population growth over the last five years than the nation as a whole. None have reported a population decline.