Special Report

America's 50 Best Cities to Live

Source: Brandonrush / Wikimedia Commons

45. Springdale, Arkansas
> Population: 81,799
> Median home value: $160,300
> Poverty rate: 15.6%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 23.0%

Many of the most desirable communities in the United States are growing rapidly — and Springdale, Arkansas is among them. The city’s population expanded by 25.5% over the last decade, more than three times the comparable U.S. population growth.

A healthy economy may partially explain Springdale’s rapid growth. The city’s 2.7% annual unemployment rate is lower than both the U.S. unemployment rate of 4.9% and the statewide rate of 4.0%. For those employed in Springdale, incomes are about 7% higher than they are across the state as a whole. A dollar also goes further than typical in Springdale. Goods and services cost about 17% less in the city than they do across the United States as a whole.

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44. Nashua, New Hampshire
> Population: 87,889
> Median home value: $256,800
> Poverty rate: 9.1% (bottom 25%)
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 31.3%

Residents of Nashua, New Hampshire benefit from a strong economy and a disproportionately high concentration of cultural amenities and entertainment venues. Only 3.3% of the local labor force is out of work, well below the 4.9% annual U.S. unemployment rate. Many of those working in Nashua are well compensated. The typical area household earns $69,769 a year, over $12,000 more than the typical American household.

Nashua residents have plenty of options when it comes to spending disposable income. There are 223 restaurants and cafes for every 100,000 residents, far more than the typical concentration nationwide. Nashua also boasts a greater than average concentration of recreation centers and sports teams.

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43. Bend, Oregon
> Population: 91,123
> Median home value: $347,300 (top 25%)
> Poverty rate: 10.4% (bottom 25%)
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 40.2% (top 25%)

Bend is one of two Oregon towns to rank among the best in the country to live. High incomes and a low cost of living make the area especially attractive. The typical household earns $60,784 a year — about $3,000 more than the typical American household. Goods and services are also 2.6% less expensive in Bend on average than they are nationwide.

Bend’s population expanded by 24.2% over the last decade, more than three times the comparable U.S. population growth rate over that time. Job growth appears to be keeping pace. Employment in Bend climbed by 15.1% between 2014 and 2016, the most substantial employment growth of any U.S. city. Only 3.8% of Bend’s labor force is out of a job, well below the 4.9% U.S. annual unemployment rate.

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42. Kirkland, Washington
> Population: 87,672
> Median home value: $582,100 (top 10%)
> Poverty rate: 6.6% (bottom 10%)
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 62.3% (top 10%)

Many may know the name Kirkland from wholesaler Costco’s store brand, Kirkland Signature. The company was indeed once headquartered there. Even without Costco’s headquarters, the Seattle region city is home to a number of high-paying companies. Google notably has an office in the city. The presence of Google and other companies has contributed to Kirkland’s very high household incomes. The typical household in Kirkland earns $114,000 annually, almost double the nationwide median household income.

As is often the case, a well-educated workforce in the city accompanies an economy with high-paying, professional jobs. Over 60% of Kirkland’s adults have a college degree, nearly double the national college attainment rate.

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41. Franklin, Tennessee
> Population: 74,788
> Median home value: $391,000 (top 25%)
> Poverty rate: 10.1% (bottom 25%)
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 58.5% (top 10%)

A weak economy can undercut any number of advantages an American city might have. Conversely, a strong economy can create a virtuous cycle in a community. In Franklin, Tennessee, a city with only 3.3% unemployment and an 8.4% uptick in total employment between 2014 and 2016 — more than double comparable U.S. employment growth rate — the economy is a boon.

A highly skilled workforce can be more resilient to economic slumps, and in Franklin, 58.5% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree compared to only 31.3% of American adults. Better-educated populations also tend to be higher earning, and Franklin’s labor force is no exception. The typical area household earns $91,657 a year, or $34,000 more than the typical American household.

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