Special Report

Best City to Live in Every State

Source: Yoshi Canopus / Wikimedia Commons

Hawaii: Kalaoa
> Population: 11,604
> 5 yr. population change: +14.3%
> Median home value: $498,900
> Median household income: $71,051
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 2.9%

Kalaoa is a Census designated place on the west coast of the island of Hawaii. Economic conditions are strong in the area, as an average of only 2.9% of the local labor force has been unemployed in the last five years, and about one in every 10 households earn $200,000 or more per year. Kalaoa also has more cultural and entertainment attractions such as restaurants, golf courses, zoos, and movie theaters, per capita than the U.S. as a whole.

As is the case in many of the communities on this list, Kalaoa is growing rapidly. The number of people living in the area climbed by 14.3% in the last five years, faster than the vast majority of places in Hawaii.

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Idaho: Meridian
> Population: 97,008
> 5 yr. population change: +24.3%
> Median home value: $242,000
> Median household income: $68,131
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 3.1%

Few parts of the country are growing as rapidly as the western Idaho city of Meridian. The city is home to just over 97,000 people, a 24.3% increase from five years earlier. Over the same period, employment in the city climbed by 26.4%, and the average unemployment rate was only 3.1%. Meridian is also a safe city, with only 159 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 people in 2018 — less than half the national violent crime rate.

Meridian residents have access to over a dozen local parks, covering nearly 400 acres, and more restaurants, bars, fitness centers, movie theaters, theatre companies, and zoos and botanical gardens on a per capita basis than Americans, on average, nationwide.

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Illinois: Winnetka
> Population: 12,481
> 5 yr. population change: +1.7%
> Median home value: $1,076,000
> Median household income: $220,577
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 2.4%

Winnetka is a small village along the shore of Lake Michigan about 20 miles north of downtown Chicago. Residents have easy access to the largest city in the Midwest with a commuter line that goes directly downtown. Partially as a result, over a quarter of commuters in the area use public transit to get to work and do not have to rely on a car. As is often the case in municipalities on this list located outside major urban areas, unemployment is low in Winnetka. The village’s five-year average jobless rate of 2.4% is less than half the comparable national figure of 5.9%.

The village also boasts a high per capita concentration of restaurants, bars, and theater companies as well as a total of 27 parks that span nearly 250 acres.

Indiana: Kendallville
> Population: 9,522
> 5 yr. population change: -5.0%
> Median home value: $97,100
> Median household income: $42,278
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 5.3%

Kendallville, a small city in northeastern Indiana, is a relatively affordable place to live. The typical home is worth 2.3 times as much as the city’s median household income. Meanwhile, the median home value across the country is 3.4 times higher than the median household income. Not just housing is more affordable, but the overall cost of living in Kendallville is about 14.5% lower than it is on average nationwide.

While Kendalville’s median household income of $42,278 is well below the national median of $60,293, area residents are less likely than most Americans to face serious financial hardship. Just 12.1% of Kendallville residents live below the poverty line compared to 14.1% of people nationwide.

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Iowa: Johnston
> Population: 20,767
> 5 yr. population change: +14.5%
> Median home value: $249,200
> Median household income: $98,552
> 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 2.7%

Johnston, Iowa, located just north of the state capital of Des Moines, ranks as the best city to live in the state. The suburb boasts more than a dozen parks and 40 miles of trail. And according to a 2015 survey, nine in every 10 residents are satisfied or very satisfied with quality of life there.

Area residents benefit from a low cost of living, affordable housing, and a strong job market. Such conditions appear to be drawing in new residents and families. Over the last five years, Johnston’s population grew by 14.5%.