Moving from one city to another is much more common in the United States than it used to be. No matter the reasons for the move — buying a house, looking for a new job, leaving home for the first time — it is always a major undertaking.
A host of factors play an important role in deciding where to move, including the quality of schools, the strength of the local economy and job market, safety, culture, and even climate. Americans facing this decision have much to consider.
To determine America’s best cities to live in, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on the 550 U.S. cities with populations of 65,000 or more as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau. Based on a range of variables, including crime rates, employment growth, access to restaurants and attractions, educational attainment, and housing affordability, 24/7 Wall St. identified America’s 50 Best Cities to Live
.Deciding where to live, or whether your current city meets your standards, can be a highly subjective assessment. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Elise Gould, senior economist with nonprofit think tank the Economic Policy Institute, noted several personal factors that cannot be easily measured. The presence of a family support system or an individual’s personal preference for oceans or mountains, she explained, can have a major bearing on the decision of where to move — or whether to move at all.
Gould also acknowledged that the reasons for relocating differ considerably depending on the person or family. With children, the quality and presence of public schools becomes important; as a young person, the age of a population may be a significant factor; and, for someone without a large disposable income, the presence of certain amenities may be entirely irrelevant.
Still, for most Americans, a few social and economic characteristics largely account for a city’s desirability and overall quality. “People move for work,” Gould said. For many families on the move, the prospect of obtaining a job is often the most important — if not the only — consideration. For this reason, 24/7 Wall St. weighed this factor heavily when identifying the best places to live.
In 45 of the 50 best cities to live, the annual unemployment rates are below the national rate, and with a few exceptions, all 50 cities reported job growth at least in line with the national job growth rate. Incomes in these cities, when adjusted for cost of living, exceed the national annual household income of $55,775 in the vast majority of cases.
In Broomfield, Colorado, even after adjusting for the city’s high cost of living, the typical household income of $76,231 a year remains well above the national median. Conversely, many of the best cities have a relatively low cost of living, and already high incomes therefore become even higher.
The populations of many of these cities are also growing very fast. Over the past five years, the populations of all but a handful of the 50 cities grew substantially faster than the national five-year population growth rate of 3.9%. Commenting on expensive cities with growing populations, Gould said, “the benefits must be outweighing those high costs.”
Here are the 50 best cities to live in, starting with the Top 5.
5. Lee’s Summit, Missouri
> Population: 95,068
>Median home value: $200,300
> Poverty rate: 6.2%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 46.6%
Residents in Lee’s Summit, Missouri reap the benefits of some of the best economic circumstances of any U.S. city. The Kansas City suburb’s unemployment rate of 3.8% is well below both the state and national rates. The city’s employment growth rate of 6.6% between 2013 and 2015 well outpaced the national 4.0% growth rate over the same time.
The presence of colleges and universities near a city can have wide-reaching positive effects on quality of life. In addition to providing education opportunities for residents, these institutions often attract other employers. There are 36 colleges and universities in the Lee’s Summit area, or 5.2 institutions for every 100,000 residents, one of the highest concentrations in the country.
4. Johns Creek, Georgia
> Population: 83,339
> Median home value: $373,700
> Poverty rate: 4.6%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 65.6%
While many social and economic measures in Georgia are generally worse than in most states, Johns Creek residents earn high incomes while living in a low poverty area, have high levels of education, and can enjoy plenty of amenities. The median annual household income in Johns Creek, adjusted for the cost of living, is $115,402 a year, well more than double the state’s median income. Also, the poverty rate of 4.6% is considerably lower than the national poverty rate of 14.7% and the state rate of 17.0%.
Johns Creek residents also have access to a remarkable number of leisure venues, especially dining. There are around 320 eating locations per 100,000 city residents, one of the higher such concentrations in the nation.
3. Richardson, Texas
> Population: 110,827
> Median home value: $226,000
> Poverty rate: 9.5%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 53.2%
More than half of all adults in Richardson have at least a bachelor’s degree. With high educational attainment, incomes in the city are high and violent crime is scarce. The typical Richardson household earns $80,398 a year, and the city’s violent crime rate is less than half that of the state a whole. In many cities with higher incomes, the cost of living is also higher than normal. In Richardson, however, the cost of goods and services is roughly in line with the cost of living nationwide.
Located just outside of Dallas, Richardson residents benefit both from economic opportunities in the larger city, and the cultural amenities, without the higher violent and property crime rates
.2. Meridian, Idaho
> Population: 90,753
> Median home value: $213,100
> Poverty rate: 10.7%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 35.2%
Meridian is located just outside of Idaho’s capital city of Boise. The city is safe — just over 100 violent crimes were reported per 100,000 residents in Meridian last year, a fraction of the national violent crime rate of 373 violent crimes per 100,000 people nationwide.
The city’s annual unemployment rate is quite low, At just 3.5% compared to the national jobless rate of 5.3%. Moreover, jobs are being added to the local economy faster than in most of the United States. The number of jobs increased by nearly 10% from 2013 through the end of last year, much faster than the national jobs growth rate of 4.0% over that period. Prospective employment is frequently the first priority for Americans considering relocation. With the strong job market, Meridian’s population has been growing dramatically in recent years. The city’s population growth rate of over 20% over the five years through 2015 is more than five times the nation’s 5-year population growth rate of 3.9%.
1. Broomfield, Colorado
> Population: 65,065
> Median home value: $342,800
> Poverty rate: 4.6%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 56.1%
Broomfield, Colorado is 24/7 Wall St.’s best city to live in. Many of the nation’s top cities are relatively small, located just outside a major metropolitan area, and Broomfield is no different. With a population of just over 65,000, Broomfield barely made the population cutoff for consideration on this year’s list. The city is located in commuting distance of both Boulder and Denver.
Broomfield boasts several economic features that are likely quite attractive to families browsing for a new city. Less than 5% of city residents live in poverty, for example, a fraction of the national poverty rate of 14.7%. The health of a city’s job market is one of the most universal characteristics of a highly desirable city. Not only is Broomfield’s annual unemployment rate of 3.3.% is one of the lower rates of U.S. cities, but also the number of jobs in the city grew by 8.0% from 2013 through last year, double the comparable national growth rate. If education levels of a population are any indication of the quality of jobs in an area, then the jobs offered in Broomfield are high skilled and high paying. Well over half of adults in the city have at least a bachelor’s degree, one of the higher college attainment rates of any U.S. city.