Special Report

America’s 50 Best Cities to Live

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25. Brandon, South Dakota
> Population: 9,731
> 5 yr. population change: +10.0%
> Median household income: $80,727
> Five-year unemployment rate: 1.8%

Brandon, South Dakota, is a small city of less than 10,000 located about 10 miles northeast of downtown Sioux Falls. Not only are incomes high in the area, but also Brandon residents benefit from a low cost of living. The typical area household earns $80,727 a year, about $23,000 more than the national median, and goods and services in the city are about 12% less expensive on average than they are nationwide.

The relatively higher than typical median income is partially because nearly anyone who wants a job in the city can get one. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city’s unemployment rate stands at just 1.8%, less than half the comparable 4.1% national rate.

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24. Carroll, Iowa
> Population: 9,937
> 5 yr. population change: -1.2%
> Median household income: $44,561
> Five-year unemployment rate: 1.5%

Carroll, Iowa, is one of the least expensive parts of the country. Goods and services in the area are about 16% less expensive than they are nationwide, on average. The city is also relatively safe. There were just 20 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in 2017, a fraction of the 383 per 100,000 national violent crime rate.

Carroll residents have plenty of local amenities to take advantage of. The city boasts an 18-hole municipal golf course, a park with tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts, an aquatic center open to the public, a skate park, and a recreational trial connecting two state parks.

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23. St. Joseph, Michigan
> Population: 8,301
> 5 yr. population change: -0.7%
> Median household income: $55,975
> Five-year unemployment rate: 2.6%

St. Joseph is a small city of just over 8,000 in southwestern Michigan along the shore of Lake Michigan. Area residents have access to a far greater than typical concentration of bars, restaurants, recreation centers, and museums. The area’s high quality of life is further supported by the relative scarcity of property and violent crimes and a healthy job market. Just 2.6% of the city’s labor force is out of a job, well below the 4.1% national unemployment rate.

For all it has to offer, St. Joseph is also affordable. The typical home in the city is worth about three times the median income. Nationwide, the median home value is 3.4 times greater than the annual median household income.

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22. Rochester, Minnesota
> Population: 112,683
> 5 yr. population change: +5.4%
> Median household income: $68,574
> Five-year unemployment rate: 3.5%

Following a 5.4% five-year population growth, Rochester, Minnesota, is home to nearly 113,000 people — the largest city on this list. The city covers about 54 square miles and boasts 3,500 acres of park land and over 85 miles of paved trails.

Rochester is also a safe city. There were just 194 reported violent crimes in the city for every 100,000 people in 2017, roughly half the 383 per 100,000 national violent crime rate.

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21. Bismarck, North Dakota
> Population: 70,536
> 5 yr. population change: +13.9%
> Median household income: $61,477
> Five-year unemployment rate: 1.2%

Over the last five years, people have poured into North Dakota’s capital city of Bismarck. The population grew by 13.9%, compared to a 3.8% nationwide population growth during the same period. People commonly move to find work, and Bismarck’s population influx is no exception.

Likely fueled in part by North Dakota’s oil boom, the number of people employed in the city grew by 12.9% in the last half decade, more than double the U.S. employment growth rate. Bismarck’s workers tend to be well compensated, as the city has a median household income of $61,477. Further, goods and services are also relatively inexpensive in the area, costing nearly 13% less than the average nationwide.

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