This story was originally published on 24/7 Wall St.
Moving within the United States from one city to another is much more common today. No matter the reasons for the move — buying a house, looking for a new job, leaving home for the first time — it remains a major undertaking. A host of factors play an important role in the decision 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.
According to Elise Gould, senior economist with nonprofit think tank the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), “most people move because of jobs.” Indeed, 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.
Of the 50 best cities to live, 41 have unemployment rates below the national rate, and all but five have had faster recent job growth than the national job growth rate. Incomes in these cities, when adjusted for cost of living, exceed the national household income of $53,657 in the vast majority of cases.
The affordability of housing was another key measure in our assessment of U.S. cities. The median home value in all but nine of the 50 cities exceeds the value of a typical American home of $181,200. Since housing prices are often tied to local and statewide market forces, a particular city’s home value was more often compared to statewide home prices. In all but a handful of the best cities to live, the city’s median home value was greater than the comparable state figure. In six of the 50 cities, a typical home was valued more than double the statewide value.
The ability to live safely in a given area is also a top priority for American families on the move. The violent crime rate, therefore, was another key measure when determining the best cities to live. Because violent crime rates tend to correlate with other measures of livability, these cities tend to have very low crime. The violent crime rate in the vast majority of the best cities to live is less than half the national violent crime rate of 365 per 100,000 residents.
Population growth was not part of our assessment of cities, but we excluded cities with negative population growth from our analysis. The most desirable cities to live in tended to have above-average population growths in the last decade.
As Gould observed, designing a singular index of this kind can be a challenge because people move to — and either grow to love or hate — a city for a variety of often-personal reasons. Indeed, while jobs are a major determining factor for a move, people often prefer to stay where they are because of other reasons. “And that could be city amenities, it could also be proximity to family and friends,” Gould said.
Many of the best cities are located near major cities, as this proximity provides residents with access to good schools while living in safe neighborhoods. It also allows them to enjoy the amenities available in the nearby larger cities.
Perhaps surprisingly, none of America’s largest cities are on this list. There is no New York, Los Angeles, or Houston among the best places to live. Nearly all of the biggest cities in the country by population had crime rates that automatically excluded them from consideration. Additionally, the largest cities tend to have higher poverty rates, making them less likely to qualify.