Special Report

Best Cities to Live in Every State

Source: Sporksrock120 / Wikimedia Commons

1. Alabama
> Best city to live: Hoover
> Population: 84,943
> Median home value: $278,600
> Poverty rate: 5.4% (lowest 10%)
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 57.7%

Hoover is not only one of the best places to live in Alabama, but also one of the best in the United States. A typical household in Hoover, the wealthiest city in Alabama, earns $79,004 a year, far more than the $57,617 a year the typical American household earns. Adjusted for the area’s low cost of living — goods and services cost 9 cents less on the dollar in the Hoover area than they do nationwide — the median household income in Hoover is higher than in all but 51 other cities. Just 5.4% of Hoover residents live in poverty, compared to 14.0% of Americans nationwide.

While population growth in nearby Birmingham has lagged far behind the national growth rate over the past decade, Hoover’s population growth has been much faster. At 17.0%, Hoover’s population growth rate between 2007 and 2016 was more than double the 7.1% national rate.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Alaska
> Best city to live: Anchorage
> Population: 298,192
> Median home value: $320,800
> Poverty rate: 6.3% (lowest 25%)
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 36.5%

Anchorage is technically Alaska’s best city to live, but it is also the only city large enough to make our population cutoff. Still, Anchorage is by some measures one of the better places to live in the country. The city’s median household income of $85,634 is about $28,000 higher than the national median household income. Also, just 6.3% of city residents live in poverty, less than half the national poverty rate of 14.0%.

Still Anchorage is not without serious flaws. Notably, the city’s violent crime rate of 1,148 incidents per 100,000 residents, which is many times the national violent crime rate of 386 per 100,000 residents, is one of the higher rates of any city in the country.

Source: Thinkstock

3. Arizona
> Best city to live: Gilbert
> Population: 237,120
> Median home value: $307,000
> Poverty rate: 5.0% (lowest 10%)
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 45.4% (highest 25%)

Gilbert is a town about 20 miles southeast of Phoenix, the largest city in Arizona. Many Gilbert residents hold advanced, high-paying jobs in Phoenix. The typical household in the town earns $91,576 a year, far more than the national median household income of $57,617. Commuters living in northern Gilbert might have access to additional transit options as soon as 2019, when the Valley Metro Rail completes the extension of its light rail service to an intersection just north of the city.

Like many of the best cities to live in, Gilbert’s population has grown at a rapid pace in recent years. The population has increased 11.9% since 2011, more than three times the nationwide population growth rate of 3.7%.

Source: Brandonrush / Wikimedia Commons

4. Arkansas
> Best city to live: Springdale
> Population: 81,799
> Median home value: $160,300
> Poverty rate: 15.6% (lowest 25%)
> Adults 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 no different. 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 incomes across the state as a whole. A dollar also goes farther in Springdale than nationwide. Goods and services cost about 17% less in the city than they do across the United States as a whole.

Source: Don Ramey Logan / Wikimedia Commons

5. California
> Best city to live: Mission Viejo
> Population: 96,386
> Median home value: $667,100 (highest 25%)
> Poverty rate: 4.7% (lowest 10%)
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 49.7%

Mission Viejo, a major planned community in southern California’s Orange County, is the best city to live in the state and among the best cities to live nationwide. Area residents are largely untouched by crime. There were 78 violent crimes in the city for every 100,000 residents in 2016, far fewer than the 386 incidents per 100,000 Americans nationwide.

Living in Mission Viejo is not cheap, however. Goods and services in the area are on average 29.3% more expensive than they are nationwide. Still, the typical area household earns about $111,500 a year, more than enough to compensate for the higher living expenses.

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