Special Report

America's 50 Best Cities to Live

Source: Stephen Walker / Wikimedia Commons

45. Hays, Kansas
> Population: 21,073
> 5 yr. population change: +3.3%
> Median home value: $161,800
> Median household income: $45,795

A healthy job market is extremely important for people considering moving to an area, both because it means they are more like to be able to earn an income, and because low unemployment is usually a sign of regional prosperity, which translates into a better tax base for the local government to draw on to improve services and infrastructure, as well as schools.

Hays has an annual unemployment rate of just 3.6%, compared to the national annual unemployment rate of 4.4%. Also, sometimes an unemployment rate can fail to represent the true employment situation, as people who give up looking for work entirely are not counted in the unemployment rate. In Hays, over 73.6% of the working age population are employed, compared to just 58.8% of all working age Americans.

Source: Jonathunder / Wikimedia Commons

44. Albert Lea, Minnesota
> Population: 17,775
> 5 yr. population change: -1.5% (bottom 20%)
> Median home value: $95,200 (bottom 20%)
> Median household income: $42,128

Albert Lea is a small Minnesota city with 17,800 residents located about 100 miles south of downtown Minneapolis. A number of Minnesota cities rank among the best cities to live, and of these, Albert Lea is by far the most affordable. Nationwide, the typical home is worth 3.3 times the national median household income. In Albert Lea, the typical home has a value of $95,200, just 2.3 times the city’s median household income of $41,128. Overall, goods and services are 19% less expensive in Albert Lea than they are nationwide on average.

Albert Lea is also safe, with one of the lowest annual violent crime rates in the country of just 85 incidents per 100,000 people, compared to a national violent crime rate of 383 per 100,000.

43. Andover, Kansas
> Population: 12,477
> 5 yr. population change: +9.8%
> Median home value: $176,200
> Median household income: $85,230 (top 20%)

Andover is one of the wealthiest cities in Kansas. The typical Andover household earns $85,230 a year, nearly $30,000 higher than the U.S. median income. A dollar also goes a long way in Andover, as goods and services in the city are about 11% less expensive than they are on average nationwide.

This suburb of Wichita was decimated by a powerful F5 tornado in 1991, but its residents rebuilt the town, and Andover continues to thrive. Over the past five years, Andover’s population has grown nearly 10%, more than double the national population growth of 3.9%.

Source: Bobak Ha'Eri / Wikimedia Commons

42. Hutchinson, Minnesota
> Population: 13,891
> 5 yr. population change: -2.1% (bottom 10%)
> Median home value: $138,600
> Median household income: $52,864

Hutchinson is a relatively safe city. It’s violent crime rate of 159 incidents per 100,000 residents is less than half the U.S. violent crime rate. Like many other communities in Minnesota, Hutchinson borders several lakes, which provide residents and visitors alike with opportunities for outdoor activities like swimming. The parks department also notes that there are many nearby hiking trails.

Unlike most cities on this list, Hutchinson is not attracting new residents at a fast enough rate to grow. The town’s population fell by 2.1% in the past five years, even as the U.S. population climbed 3.9% over the same period.

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41. Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
> Population: 9,007
> 5 yr. population change: -1.7% (bottom 20%)
> Median home value: $136,500
> Median household income: $48,377

Sturgeon Bay is is located on the Door Peninsula, on the shores of Lake Michigan. In addition to offering residents many beautiful views of the lake, Sturgeon Bay is a great city for people interested in dining and drinking out. Relative to the population, there are roughly five times as many bars and three times as many restaurants and places to eat as is typical nationwide. Sturgeon bay also has several interesting attractions, including the Door County Maritime Museum and the Cana Island Lighthouse.