Special Report

Best Cities to Live in Every State

Source: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / Shuterstock.com

Massachusetts: Cambridge
> Population: 115,665
> 5 yr. population change: +9.4%
> Median home value: $719,300
> Median household income: $95,404
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 4.4%

Cambridge, the best city to live in Massachusetts, is located directly across the Charles River from Boston, the state capital and largest city in New England. The historic city, home to both Harvard and MIT, has a higher concentration of places like restaurants, gyms, museums, and libraries per capita than the U.S. as a whole. It also has a relatively strong job market, with a five-year average unemployment rate of just 4.4%, compared to the 5.9% national average.

Cambridge is a relatively condensed city with reliable public transportation, giving residents far more commuting options than most Americans have. Only about one-quarter of commuters in the city drive alone to work, compared to more than three-quarters of Americans nationwide. Meanwhile, over half of all workers in Cambridge either walk or take public transportation, compared to less than 10% of workers nationwide.

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Michigan: Traverse City
> Population: 15,474
> 5 yr. population change: +3.6%
> Median home value: $240,100
> Median household income: $53,871
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 4.9%

Traverse City is located in northwestern Michigan on the southern end of the Grand Traverse Bay. Though incomes tend to be slightly lower than average in the city, residents benefit from a lower cost of living, as goods and services are about 6.5% less expensive than they are on average nationwide. Traverse City also has a stronger than average job market, and partially as a result, area residents are less likely than most Americans to live below the poverty line.

The city also boasts far higher concentrations of entertainment and recreational venues like restaurants, bars, and golf courses than the national average. Additionally, across the broader county, 87.4% of the population has easy access to places for exercise like parks and recreation centers, a larger share than the 84.0% of Americans nationwide.

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Minnesota: Rochester
> Population: 113,913
> 5 yr. population change: +5.3%
> Median home value: $188,000
> Median household income: $70,749
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 4.2%

With relatively high incomes and a low cost of living, Rochester, Minnesota, is an affordable place to live. The median annual household income in the city is $70,749, about $10,000 more than the median household income nationwide. Meanwhile, goods and services are about 5% less expensive in Rochester than they are nationwide, on average. Housing is particularly affordable, as the median home value in the city is just 2.7 times more than the median household income, well below the comparable 3.4 national ratio.

Rochester residents also benefit from a high per capita concentration of recreation and cultural venues, including gyms, golf courses, museums, and theater companies.

Source: GilbertThompson / Wikimedia Commons

Mississippi: Byram
> Population: 11,657
> 5 yr. population change: +1.3%
> Median home value: $140,600
> Median household income: $65,671
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 2.6%

Byram, Mississippi, is located less than 15 miles south of Jackson, the state capital. Incomes are higher in Byram than in the vast majority of cities and towns in the state. Most households in Byram earn over $65,000 a year, which is higher than the national median household income of $60,293. The higher than average incomes are likely due in part to the area’s strong job market. Over the past five years, Byram’s average unemployment rate has been just 2.6%, less than half the comparable 5.9% national jobless rate.

Source: Courtesy of the City of Ladue, Missouri

Missouri: Ladue
> Population: 8,586
> 5 yr. population change: +0.8%
> Median home value: $835,300
> Median household income: $192,500
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 1.6%

One of the wealthiest cities in Missouri, Ladue’s median household income of $192,500 a year is more than triple the national median income of $60,293. Not only is Ladue a wealthy city, but it is also inexpensive. Goods and services are 11.2% cheaper on average than they are typically nationwide.

Ladue is located less than 15 miles west of St. Louis, one of the largest cities in the Midwest with a large job market. Over the last five years, unemployment averaged just 1.6% in the city, a fraction of the 5.9% national average. In addition to cultural attractions and entertainment venues in St. Louis, Ladue residents enjoy a greater concentration than the national average of restaurants, fitness and recreation centers, and movie theaters within their own city limits.

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