Special Report

Americas 50 Best Cities To Live

40. Hawthorne, New Jersey
> Population: 18,784
> 5-yr. population change: -0.8%
> Median household income: $97,692
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 3.6%

Hawthorne is one of five New Jersey cities to rank among America’s 50 best places to live. Less than an hour drive from Midtown Manhattan, Hawthorne residents have access to the economic opportunities available in New York City. The city’s median household income is over $97,000, as compared to the $62,843 median nationwide.

Hawthorne residents tend to lead a fairly healthy lifestyle. More than 83% of adult residents get at least some leisure time physical activity, compared to 76.4% of all U.S. adults. Just 21.7% of residents 18 and over are considered obese, compared to 29% of all American adults.

39. Clayton, Missouri
> Population: 16,588
> 5-yr. population change: +4.2%
> Median household income: $107,596
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 2.2%

Clayton is a small town of just over 16,000 west of St. Louis. City residents tend to be prosperous. The typical household earns over $107,000 annually, and more than 30% of households have an income of over $200,000, a far larger share than households nationwide. Residents also tend to be well educated, with 77.7% of adults in Clayton holding at least a bachelor’s degree, which is more than double the 32.1% national bachelor’s degree attainment rate.

The area’s high incomes are due in part to Clayton’s strong job market. The city’s five-year average unemployment as of 2019 was just 2.2%, well below the national 5.3% average unemployment rate during that same stretch of time.

Source: UWMadison / iStock via Getty Images

38. Middleton, Wisconsin
> Population: 19,487
> 5-yr. population change: +7.2%
> Median household income: $76,011
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 2.5%

Middleton, Wisconsin, a small city of about 20,000 in Dane County, less than 10 miles from Madison, is one of two places in the state to rank on this list. The area boasts over 50 parks and natural areas that are well suited to activities such as biking and cross country skiing. Middleton also has several museums, two farmers markets, over 60 retail shops, 80 restaurants, and an award winning micro-brewery.

The city has also historically had a strong job market. An average of just 2.5% of the local labor force has been unemployed in the last five years, less than half the average 5.3% national jobless rate during the same time. With a healthy economy and plenty of recreational amenities, Middleton is growing fast. In the last five years, the number of people living in the area has jumped by 7.2% — more than double the 3.4% national population growth.

37. Glenwood Springs, Colorado
> Population: 9,915
> 5-yr. population change: +2.6%
> Median household income: $66,693
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 3.1%

Glenwood Springs, Colorado, is a resort community located in the Rocky Mountains about 160 miles west of Denver. One of the best places to live in the state, the area is home to a far higher than average concentration of places like restaurants, hotels, and movie theaters per capita. Residents also have access to places for outdoor recreation like hiking, mountain biking, climbing, golfing, and snow sports.

Though Glenwood Springs is more isolated than the vast majority of places on this list — and not within commuting distance of a major city — there are still plenty of employment opportunities. Over the last five years, just 3.1% of the labor force has been unemployed, compared to the 5.3% comparable national average jobless rate.

Source: peterleabo / iStock via Getty Images

36. Petaluma, California
> Population: 60,767
> 5-yr. population change: +3.1%
> Median household income: $91,528
> 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 4.0%

Petaluma, California, is one of several cities in the San Francisco Bay area to rank on this list. Residents have easy access to San Francisco and California’s wine country, and the city itself — one of the oldest in California — has a high concentration of restaurants, gyms, parks, museums, and movie theaters per capita.

Petaluma is a relatively wealthy city. The typical household in the area earns $91,528 a year, while the typical American household earns $62,843. Additionally, 14.4% of local households earn over $200,000 a year, nearly double the comparable 7.7% share of households nationwide.