Special Report

Best Cities to Live in Every State

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16. Kansas
> Best city to live: Olathe
> Population: 135,474
> Median home value: $217,300
> Poverty rate: 5.6% (lowest 10%)
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 49.6%

Poverty is relatively uncommon in Olathe, Kansas. Only 5.6% of city residents live below the poverty line — less than half the statewide poverty rate of 12.1%. The area’s relative financial security is likely due in part to a strong job market. Only 3.2% of the Olathe workforce is out of a job, well below the 4.2% state unemployment rate and the 4.9% national rate.

The city is also far more affordable than most. The value of the typical home in Olathe is only 2.6 times as high as the area’s median household income. Nationwide, the typical home is worth 3.6 times the typical income.

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17. Kentucky
> Best city to live: Lexington-Fayette
> Population: 318,449
> Median home value: $181,200 (lowest 25%)
> Poverty rate: 17.7%
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 43.7% (lowest 25%)

Many of the best cities to live in are college towns. Lexington is home to the University of Kentucky, the largest postsecondary institution in the state.

In 1958, the City of Lexington instituted the first urban growth boundary in the United States in order to limit sprawl development and preserve the city’s outlying farmland. The boundary has helped preserve the area’s numerous thoroughbred horse farms and create a culture of horse racing and equestrian events. Today, Lexington is home to two horse racing tracks, and economic activities related to horses generate approximately $4 billion in the area annually. The city’s median household income of $53,178 per year is below the national median of $57,617, yet is the highest of any major city in Kentucky.

Source: PhotogMetairie / Wikimedia Commons

18. Louisiana
> Best city to live: Metairie
> Population: 143,475
> Median home value: $231,100
> Poverty rate: 9.6%
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 37.1%

One of the poorest states in the country, Louisiana’s poverty rate of 20.2% is the highest of any state other than Mississippi. However, serious financial hardship is far less common in some parts of the state. In Metairie, the most liveable city in the state and one of the most liveable cities in the United States, the 9.6% poverty rate is less than half the statewide rate and far below the 14.0% national figure.

For those with disposable income in Metairie, the city boasts a dense concentration of cultural amenities and entertainment venues. There is a greater concentration of restaurants, bars, fitness centers, and sports teams in Metairie than is typical nationwide.

Source: Thinkstock

19. Maine
> Best city to live: Portland
> Population: 66,945
> Median home value: $280,600
> Poverty rate: 18.9%
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 49.6%

Portland is the only city in Maine with a population large enough to be considered, so it ranks as the best city to live in the state by default. The city still has a lot going for it. A estimated 49.6% of adults in the city hold at least a bachelor’s degree, a much higher rate than the comparable national attainment rate of 31.3% — Portland ranks in the top 100 most educated U.S. cities.

The area is also one of the safest in the United States in terms of natural disasters. Portland’s county, Cumberland, is one of the least likely in the country to be hit by a natural disaster like an earthquake, tornado, or hurricane. The county also has some of the best air quality in the nation with fewer than 3% of days considered to have hazardous air.

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20. Maryland
> Best city to live: Columbia
> Population: 107,308
> Median home value: $371,400 (highest 25%)
> Poverty rate: 6.5% (lowest 10%)
> Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 63.2% (highest 10%)

Cities like Columbia are largely the reason Maryland is the wealthiest state in the country. The typical Columbia household earns $107,164 a year — well above the median income nationwide of $57,617. As is the case in many of the best cities in the country, goods and services are considerably more expensive in Columbia than they are on average nationwide. Still, even adjusted for the area’s high cost of living, incomes in Columbia are higher than national cost of living-adjusted incomes.

Columbia residents have access to plenty of cultural amenities and entertainment venues. The city has a higher concentration of restaurants, theater companies, and movie theaters than is typical nationwide. Like many cities on this list, Columbia’s population is growing rapidly. The city’s population climbed by about 15% in the last 10 years, more than double the U.S. population growth rate over the same period.

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