There’s a common denominator that all good cities have.
They are the places that have great economies. They are the places where the school systems are in awesome shape. They’re the places where lots of people have jobs, and where residents earn high salaries.
If home prices are high, it’s a sign that there’s a lot of demand to live there.
And certainly, if crime is really low, everyone wants to be there.
The cities below all share those qualities. There might be some surprises on this list, but when you look at the unbiased data, it’s hard to argue against. We had more than 10 million people read our worst cities in a state series, which was featured in hundreds of media outlets, including an NPR feature.
So we know what we’re talking about.
After analyzing the biggest 220 cities in the country, here is our list of the best places to live in America:
- Naperville (Photos)
- Sunnyvale (Photos)
- Santa Clara (Photos)
- Torrance (Photos)
- Irvine (Photos)
- Cary (Photos)
- Frisco (Photos)
- Fremont (Photos)
- Huntington Beach (Photos)
- Gilbert (Photos)
You might be surprised to see some of these cities on this list. We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty, ‘friendly people’ and community involvement), there aren’t better options in America for making a place home.
The worst place to live in America? Memphis, TN. More on that later.
How do you decide if a place is awesome or not?
In order to rank the best places to live in America, we had to determine what criteria people like or dislike about a place. It isn’t a stretch to assume that people like low crime, solid education, things to do and a stable economy.
So we put together a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using FBI crime data and the just-released American Community Survey census data, this is the criteria we used:
- Population Density (The higher the better – meaning there’s more to do for indoor entertainment)
- Lowest Unemployment Rates
- Adjusted Median Income (Median income adjusted for the cost of living)
- Low Housing Vacancy Rate
- Education (High expenditures per student and low Student-Teacher Ratio)
- Low Crime
We looked at the 220 biggest cities in America — those with over 100,000 people per the latest numbers.
We then ranked each city from best to worst on each of the criteria.
Finally, we averaged all the ranks to create a best place to live index. The city with the lowest index, Naperville, is crowned the best place to live in America for 2018.
If you’d like to see the complete list of cities, scroll to the bottom of this post to see a link to the entire data set.
Population: 145,789Median Home Value: $388,400
Median Income: $110,676
This Chicago suburb is plain loaded. There’s only one place in the country where families bring in more money per capita, and that’s in Frisco, Texas (below). If being near wealthy people where crime is something that simply happens in other cities is a place that sounds good to you, then Naperville is a place for you.
Money Magazine always sings the praises of Naperville, and Kiplinger called it the best place in America to retire. That is, if you can stand the brutal winters.
Plus, the public libraries in Naperville rank as the best in the land, and the downtown area of Naperville is just so charming, who wouldn’t want to live here?
Population: 149,596Median Home Value: $859,100
Median Income: $109,799
You may have heard it before – Sunnyvale is simply an amazing place to live. According to our unbiased data, it’s the 2nd best place to live in America for 2018. Why? Let’s take a peek.
First off, it would be hard to find a better place to raise kids than in this Silicon Valley city, which has the highest home values in the country. You could make the case that home prices really determine how great a place is — people speak with their cash. So Sunnyvale could really take the top spot.
Other factors: Really low crime, high population density and just about everyone who wants a job has a job.
3. Santa Clara
Population: 122,725Median Home Value: $734,500
Median Income: $102,533
Silcon Valluey suburbs are where it’s at in America these days. In fact, there are six(!) California suburbs in the top 10 here..
What makes Santa Clara particularly desirable? If measuring an area based on the income of its residents is a sign of desirability, then Santa Clara has it made. Folks here are pretty wealthy, earning about $102,000 each per year. That’s pretty darn good.
The schools are great in Santa Clara, and crime is amongst the lowest in the state, too.
Population: 147,307Median Home Value: $652,600
Median Income: $80,862
Keeping up the trend of California ‘burbs, Torrance ranks as the fourth best in America for 2018.
Here in Torrance, the number of people employed is really high. Part of that is because it is located right in the Southern California growing tech scene.
Population: 246,992Median Home Value: $718,800
Median Income: $93,823
Irvine has been cited as one of the best places to live in the country, and the technology and arts scene here is simply booming. Irvine is one of the most desirable place to live if you want to be in the L.A. area.
Folks here are wealthy, and there’s plenty of jobs and low crime. The population here is exploding – and just a year ago, the city grew at an 8% clip, which is stunning.
A ‘super suburb’ indeed.
Population: 155,822Median Home Value: $309,800
Median Income: $94,617
Chances are if you live in Cary, North Carolina, a car break-in happens once a week, and makes the front page of the local paper. This Raleigh suburb is simply in a class of its own when it comes to a peaceful, quiet standard of living.
Practically everyone in this community who wants a job has one. And, there’s plenty of technology companies in the area, which is one reason people are flocking here from all over, particularly the northeast.
The running joke in Cary is that it’s a place where people settle who don’t want to be in Florida, but want to be close to family in the New England region.
Population: 145,646Median Home Value: $300,900
Median Income: $117,642
Welcome to the wealthiest place in America. Now, we’re not speculating that wealth is the main sign of desirability, but in most studies, the ‘better’ places to live happen to also be the wealthiest places. That’s because often, areas where there are high incomes also are areas with great schools, lots of jobs and low crime.
Here in Frisco, the average household brings in more than $100,000 a year annually. And, this is just about the safest place you can live in the state of Texas. Most of the successful people who commute into Dallas-Fort Worth live here.
There’s a reason Frisco was the fastest-growing city for a number of years in the early 2000’s.
Population: 227,934Median Home Value: $702,800
Median Income: $111,613
Back to California with Fremont, the city with the highest median income in America.
This San Francisco & Oakland suburb has some of the lowest crime in the region, and lots of folks are employed gainfully. This isn’t just a place for older people, either; it’s a very family-friendly community with lots to do. And, the city of Fremont has a very large budget, which means lots of funding for parks, activities, and protection.
9. Huntington Beach
Population: 198,724Median Home Value: $659,700
Median Income: $85,312
Rouding out the California faction is Huntington Beach, the 9th best place to live in America for 2018.
Here in Huntington Beach, the schools are some of the best in the United States, where funding levels are really high, and were overcrowded schools are nonexistent.
Just about every major publication which ranks places to live has called Huntington Beach both a top spot to raise families as well as a great place to retire.
Population: 226,832Median Home Value: $264,700
Median Income: $85,581
And rounding out the top ten for 2018 is Gilbert, AZ — a surpise to us and a strong showing for the city.
Households in Gilbert bring in about $85,000 annually, which is the highest in the state of Arizona for big cities. And crime is just about as low as you can expect.
There You Have It
If you’re looking at cities in the U.S. where crime is low, people are wealthy, and the public schools are amazing, this is an accurate list.
If you’re also curious enough, here are the worst cities in America, according to science.
- Memphis, TN
- Jackson, MO
- Dayton, OH
- Detroit, MI
- San Bernardino, CA
Detailed List Of The Best Places To Live In America For 2018
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