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 250 cities in the country, here is our list of the best places to live in America:
- Alexandria, Virginia
- Plano, Texas
- Bellevue, Washington
- Naperville, Illinois
- Frisco, Texas
- Round Rock, Texas
- Coral Springs, Florida
- Overland Park, Kansas
- Olathe, Kansas
- Cary, North Carolina
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? Macon, Georgia. 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 scraped the internet for those criteria, and it spit out the answer. Like magic.
How we crunched the numbers
We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using FBI crime data, the government census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Sperling’s Best Places, 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
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.
Note: We get the crime numbers from the FBI, which gets its crime numbers from the cities themselves. This list is based on data, and is entirely unbiased.
1. Alexandria, Virginia
Home values: 20th highest in the nation
Crime: 22nd lowest in the nation
Student-teacher ratio: Best in America
You may have heard it before – Alexandria is simply an amazing place to live. But according to our unbiased data, it’s the absolute best place to live in America, hands down. Why? Let’s take a peek.
First off, it would be hard to find a better place to raise kids than in this D.C. suburb, which has the best school system in the country. The amount of money per student is in the top 10, and the number of teachers per student is the highest in the land – at just 9.8 kids per instructor.
That’s insanely low.
Other factors: Really low crime, high population density and just about everyone who wants a job has a job.
2. Plano, Texas
Incomes: 5th highest in America
Schools: Top 10 in the country
Texas suburbs are where it’s at in America these days. In fact, there are three Texas suburbs in the top 10 here, and 5 in the top 12.
What makes Plano particularly desirable? If measuring an area based on the income of its residents is a sign of desirability, then Plano has it made. Folks here are pretty wealthy, earning about $83,000 each per year. That’s pretty darn good.
The schools are great in Plano, and crime is the lowest in the state, too. There were only four homicides here a couple years back, which is the lowest in the country for cities with a population over 250,000.
3. Bellevue, Washington
Unemployment rate: 3.9%
Home values: 15th highest in the country
Crime: 20th lowest
There aren’t very many places on the west coast that rank high on our list. All judgment aside, it seems as if the midwest and smatterings of the south are where the most desirable places in America are located.
Here in Bellevue, Washington, the number of people employed is really high. Part of that is because Bellevue is located right across Lake Washington from Seattle, which is a great American city.
Bellevue has been called the 4th best place for new businesses (CNN) and the 2nd best place to live in America (USA Today). Plus, Bellevue means ‘beautiful view’ in French.
4. Naperville, Illinois
Incomes: 2nd highest in America
Crime: 3rd lowest
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?
5. Frisco, Texas
Crime: 15th lowest
Incomes: Highest in America
Unemployment rate: 3.8%
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.
6. Round Rock, Texas
Incomes: 5th highest in America
Unemployment rate: 4%
Crime: 15th lowest in the nation
Austin has been cited as one of the best places to live in the country, and the technology and arts scene here is simply booming. Round Rock is essentially the most desirable place to live if you want to be in the Austin 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. And, the Round Rock Independent School District ranks among the best in the state, according to the Texas Education Agency.
A ‘super suburb’ indeed.
7. Coral Springs, Florida
Crime: 30th lowest in America
Incomes: Top 5% in the U.S.
Unemployment rate: 4.3%
There aren’t too many places in Florida to crack the top of this list, but if you wanted to enjoy the Sunshine State – even for 6 months a year, then Coral Springs would be a great choice.
This Fort Lauderdale/Miami 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 Coral Springs has a very large budget, which means lots of funding for parks, activities, and protection.
8. Overland Park, Kansas
Incomes: 15th highest in the country
Crime: 25th lowest in the nation
Schools: Top 10 in the country
Yes, Kansas. In fact, the communities surrounding Kansas City are some of the most desirable in the nation, not just the midwest.
Here in Overland Park, 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 Overland Park both a top spot to raise families as well as a great place to retire.
9. Olathe, Kansas
Incomes: 6th highest in the country
Schools: Top 10 in America
Crime: 14th lowest in the nation
Olathe and Overland Park are basically twins. Olathe actually has a higher-ranked school system (when measuring student-teacher ratios), and an even lower crime rate than in Overland Park.
Households in Olathe bring in about $100,000 annually, which is practically the highest in the entire midwest, outside of Naperville. And crime is just about as low as you can expect.
10. Cary, North Carolina
Crime: 2nd lowest in the nation
Incomes: 3rd highest in America
Unemployment rate: 3.6%
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.
The next 20
Here are the grades for the next 20 cities on the list. The complete scoring chart is at the bottom.
11. McKinney, Texas Grade: A
12. Carrollton, Texas Grade: A
13. Santa Clarita, CA Grade:A
14. Gilbert, AZGrade: A
15. Stamford, CT. Grade: A
16. Torrance, CA Grade: A
17. Pembroke Pines, FL Grade:A
18. Santa Clara, CA Grade: A
19. Virginia Beach, VA Grade: A
20. Yonkers, NY Grade:A
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.
- Macon, GA (Pop. 91,605)
- Jackson, MS (Pop. 111,203)
- Detroit, MI (Pop. 721,403)
- Knoxville, TN (Pop. 180,203)
- Chattanooga, TN (Pop. 170,03)
Mobile users: Here’s a link to the complete data chart. It also has a tab for the worst cities in America.
Detailed Chart of the Best Places to Live in America
|Round Rock, Texas||6||100,764|
|Coral Springs, Florida||7||122,219|
|Overland Park, Kansas||8||174,503|
|Cary, North Carolina||10||136,627|
|Santa Clarita, California||13||175,922|
|Pembroke Pines, Florida||17||155,578|
|Santa Clara, California||18||116,301|
|Virginia Beach, Virginia||19||439,528|
|Yonkers, New York||20||196,459|
|Ann Arbor, Michigan||22||114,725|
|Simi Valley, California||25||123,942|
|Huntington Beach, California||30||191,403|
|Rancho Cucamonga, California||31||165,775|
|San Francisco, California||33||807,755|
|Jersey City, New Jersey||34||248,435|
|West Jordan, Utah||35||103,846|
|Thousand Oaks, California||36||126,570|
|Elk Grove, California||43||151,639|
|Sterling Heights, Michigan||44||129,887|
|Manchester, New Hampshire||48||109,786|
|Fargo, North Dakota||50||106,005|
|San Jose, California||51||954,379|
|Charleston, South Carolina||53||120,903|
|Costa Mesa, California||54||110,322|
|Cedar Rapids, Iowa||58||126,921|
|Sioux Falls, South Dakota||59||154,526|
|Raleigh, North Carolina||61||405,007|
|Washington, District Of Columbia||66||605,759|
|New York, New York||70||8,199,221|
|Chula Vista, California||72||242,499|
|Santa Rosa, California||74||167,207|
|Fort Collins, Colorado||77||144,329|
|San Diego, California||81||1,308,619|
|West Valley City, Utah||82||129,123|
|Des Moines, Iowa||86||204,362|
|Garden Grove, California||87||171,377|
|Grand Prairie, Texas||94||174,631|
|Fort Lauderdale, Florida||97||167,370|
|Newport News, Virginia||99||180,831|
|Los Angeles, California||108||3,804,503|
|Durham, North Carolina||110||229,963|
|Long Beach, California||111||463,589|
|Fort Worth, Texas||112||743,865|
|El Monte, California||113||114,032|
|Cape Coral, Florida||114||155,405|
|Santa Ana, California||117||326,608|
|San Antonio, Texas||119||1,335,287|
|Charlotte, North Carolina||121||740,931|
|Corpus Christi, Texas||127||305,427|
|Newark, New Jersey||133||276,478|
|Paterson, New Jersey||135||145,655|
|Moreno Valley, California||137||193,758|
|Elizabeth, New Jersey||140||124,795|
|Baton Rouge, Louisiana||142||229,174|
|Fort Wayne, Indiana||147||253,617|
|Albuquerque, New Mexico||149||545,083|
|Colorado Springs, Colorado||153||417,534|
|Las Vegas, Nevada||153||587,699|
|Port St. Lucie, Florida||158||163,748|
|El Paso, Texas||162||650,778|
|Providence, Rhode Island||167||178,185|
|New Orleans, Louisiana||171||341,407|
|St. Petersburg, Florida||176||245,363|
|Syracuse, New York||180||144,703|
|North Las Vegas, Nevada||184||215,762|
|Miami Gardens, Florida||188||107,884|
|Little Rock, Arkansas||190||193,691|
|Grand Rapids, Michigan||190||189,340|
|Oklahoma City, Oklahoma||192||581,094|
|New Haven, Connecticut||198||129,898|
|Buffalo, New York||200||261,955|
|Columbia, South Carolina||209||129,757|
|Greensboro, North Carolina||210||270,619|
|Salt Lake City, Utah||213||186,740|
|Rochester, New York||216||210,967|
|Wilmington, North Carolina||218||107,116|
|Fayetteville, North Carolina||220||200,439|
|Kansas City, Missouri||223||459,772|
|St. Louis, Missouri||227||318,527|
|Kansas City, Kansas||233||145,605|
|San Bernardino, California||240||210,624|