If you could click your heels and move anywhere else in Indiana, where would you go? To a bigger city? Or out in the country? A recent poll said that more than two-thirds of Americans wished they lived somewhere else. You might be one of them, whether or not you admit it.
But some people in Indiana don’t want to go anywhere, because they know where they call home is the best. Face it. There are some great spots in Indiana, but some are just better than others. And the the people who live there know it.
Of course, science doesn’t measure beauty and friendly smiles. All we look at are the hard numbers.
After analyzing 101 of the state’s most populous cities, we came up with this list as the 10 cities that have it made, and therefore, think they are better than you:
- West Lafayette
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared.
How do you decide how awesome a place is to live?
In order to rank the best cities with the most content residents, 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, great weather, 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 lots to do)
- Lowest Unemployment Rates
- Adjusted Median Income (Median income adjusted for the cost of living)
- High Housing Costs
- 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.
Additional 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.
The Town of Zionsville consistently ranks as one of the best places to live not only in Indiana, but in the nation. There aren’t any surprises here. And you can bet they know they are the best.
Let’s see why Zionsville ranks so high. First of all, the homes in Zionsville are the most expensive in the state of Indiana, with the average home worth a whopping $410,000. We’re not elitists, nor are we saying that big homes means a better place to live. But price reflects demand, and simply put, a lot of people want to live in Zionsville if they can afford it.
Other numbers that stand out: Zionsville residents have the 7th highest income in the state, and enjoy the 9th lowest crime numbers in Indiana.
We’re going to see a pattern here, and if you live in the Indianapolis area, you won’t be surprised by the results. Another Indy suburb, Fishers, has some very livable numbers. Crime is actually lower in Fishers than it is in Zionsville, if you can believe that.
The income levels are higher in Fishers ($92,552), and the unemployment rate is the lowest in Indiana (3.3%). That means everyone who lives here is safe and has a great job.
The only real difference between Carmel and the two cities mentioned above is that Carmel residents earn the most money out of anyone in the Hoosier State. Households pull in $107,000 a year in combined incomes.
That’s lots of front row tickets to Colts games. You probably don’t get to go to Colts games at all.
But Carmel homes are valued far less than those in Zionsville and Fishers. Average homes are worth $236,000.
Like Fishers, Carmel has a 3.6% unemployment rate.
The Town of Munster might be a bit of a surprise to some in terms of how well it ranks according to science. The mid-sized city straddles the Illinois state line, and is a short drive from Gary. Obviously, none of the issues from Gary are impacting Munster.
The crime rate in Munster isn’t amazing, but it’s far below the state average. The homes are valued at almost $200,000 here, and the schools get some of the most funding in Indiana.
If Munster can get some more of their residents to work, things will look even rosier here. The unemployment rate (7.6%) is one of the highest in the state.
You might be surprised to see the Town of Brownsburg so high on the list. Unless you live in Brownsburg.
The unemployment rate here is really low, and at 4.2%, Brownsburg residents are some of the hardest working in the state of Indiana. When you factor in high home prices, high incomes and low crime, Brownsburg is doing quite well.
Plus, Brownsburg is close enough to downtown Indy to enjoy lots of entertainment with a short drive. You can bet all of the people who live in Indianapolis suburbs think they’re smarter for having chosen to live outside of the city limits.
The Town of Dyer was recently called one of the best 100 places to live in the U.S. by CNN and Money Magazine 10 years ago, and it doesn’t look like much has changed. They’re hot stuff and they know it.
Just south of Munster, Dyer has some of the highest property values in the state ($205,000), and residents earn nearly $80,000 a year, which is 8th highest in the state. Crime is far below average; Dyer is the 19th safest place in the state.
No surprises here. Another north Indianapolis suburb, Noblesville has a lot going on. The city ranks in the top 10 when it comes to income levels, home prices and unemployment rates.
Plus, there’s a ton of stuff to do to keep you entertained and cultured if you live here. Meaning people in Noblesville don’t have to go all the way into downtown to have a great time with the family. And they’ll most likely remind you of that fact.
Jasper has been called one of the best small towns in America. If you live here, you’re most likely already aware of how great it is to live there.
Just about everyone who wants a job in Jasper has one; the unemployment rate is hovering at about 3.5% and lowering. And the Jasper police department is doing a solid job, as crime is the 6th lowest in the state here.
Jasper is way down on Route 231 by the Hoosier National Forest. Which means lots of outdoor entertainment, too.
9. West Lafayette
If you’ve ever been to Purdue, you know how great West Lafayette is. It has a cute downtown with plenty of shopping and restaurants. Most of the people who live here are educated and motivated to take part in the community.
In terms of the actual numbers, West Lafayette has great neighborhoods with high home values, and crime is in the bottom 20% in the state.
You might not believe it, but Westfield has the second-most expensive homes in Indiana. The average home is valued at more than $250,000. Residents command high salaries, and almost all of them are employed. The crime is some of the lowest in the state here.
Westfield is another northern Indy suburb that thinks it’s got it made. And they’re right.
There You Have It
No surprises on the Indianapolis suburbs ranking so high, but some people might not have expected some of the smaller places we mentioned to be in such great shape. If you’re looking at areas in the Hoosier State with the best economic situations, where there’s low crime and a lot of options for entertainment, this is an accurate list.
If you’re curious enough, here are the worst places to live in Indiana, according to science. Hopefully you don’t live in one of them.
- Gary (Pop. 81,153)
- Anderson (Pop. 56,097)
- Terre Haute (Pop. 60,850)
- Marion (Pop. 30,008)
- Michigan City (Pop. 31,442)
Other cities of note:
- 50th: Lafayette
- 40th best: Indianapolis
- 25th best: Bloomington
Also, if you’re curious, we wrote a story, 30 Things That Will Definitely Happen To You When You Move To Indiana, that you might enjoy.
Disclaimer: This article is an opinion based on data. It should not be taken as fact.