Special Report

25 Cities Best-Positioned for Growth and Recovery

Big cities attract businesses and residents because their large employment bases guarantee plentiful jobs and generally higher wages, and they offer access to entertainment and cultural activities as well. But do those advantages make them great places to work and live? For many city dwellers, the answer is yes. (Here’s the best city to live in every state.)

Size isn’t everything, of course. According to World Population Review, the 10 most largest cities by population in the U.S. are (in this order): New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose. Yet in the Milken Institute’s ranking of the nation’s best-performing cities for 2021, only three of those — Phoenix, Dallas, and San Jose — were in the top 25 among large cities.

What does it mean to be a best-performing city? The Milken Institute, a non-profit think tank, bases its scores on an index of “jobs, wages, and high-tech growth while incorporating new measures of housing affordability and household broadband access.”

To identify the best performing large cities in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the Institute’s overall ranking of city performance. Each city’s score from last year is also included in the report. (Total population figures come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.)

Click here to see the best-performing large cities in America

The top large city on this list is Provo, Utah, home to Brigham Young University. Utah also placed fourth with Salt Lake City. Palm Bay, Florida, on the state’s Atlantic Coast, ranked No. 2. Rounding out the top five were Austin, Texas (No. 3) and Raleigh, North Carolina (No. 5) — both known for their universities and concentration of tech businesses.

In a bit of a surprise, San Francisco ranked 24th on the list — a dramatic fall from its No. 1 position last year. (The Milken Institute attributes the decline to “the high cost of housing and a strong negative shift in short-term job growth…[which] may indicate the outsized effect of the coronavirus pandemic on so-called ‘superstar cities.’” (Sometimes smaller is better: These are the best small cities to start a business.)