America’s 15 best cities to live in – revealed

Find out what Americans are looking for when finding a place to settle

America’s 15 best cities to live in – revealed

What makes a city a great place to live in? Is it the quality of infrastructure, complete with lifestyle amenities that make living there more convenient? Is it having a safe and crime-free environment suitable for raising a family? Or is it a thriving job market, which offers opportunities to earn a high income?

Media giant US News & World analyzed the 150 most populous metro areas in the country based on several metrics to find out which cities most Americans consider as the best places to live in. The company used data from the Census Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Labor, and the firm’s internal resources to evaluate each city.

It then ranked the cities using five indices, the weight of which were based on a public survey in which people voted for what they perceive as the most important factor when choosing a place to live. These are:

  • Job market index (21.2%): This metric measures the strength of an area’s job market based on unemployment rate and average salary.
  • Value index (23.7%): Also called housing affordability index, this metric measures how comfortably the average resident can afford to live within their means.
  • Quality of life index (26%): This metric measures how satisfied residents are with their daily lives, taking into consideration crime rate, healthcare services, educational institutions, well-being, and commute time.
  • Desirability index (16.3%): This indicates whether people want to live in a city.
  • Net migration (12.8%): This metric shows whether people are moving to or away from a city.

Here are the cities that made the top 10% of this year’s list.

15. San Francisco, California
Overall score: 7.1
Desirability: 10.0
Value: 5.1
Job market: 8.1
Quality of life: 6.8
Net migration: 6.2

San Francisco boasts one of the country’s strongest job markets trailing only Bay Area neighbor San Jose, Washington D.C., and Boulder, Colorado. The median annual salary in the city is $75,890. Many career-driven professionals are attracted to the area due to its thriving employment market. San Francisco also scored a perfect 10 in terms of desirability.

14. Denver, Colorado
Overall score: 7.1
Desirability: 8.4
Value: 6.4
Job market: 7.6
Quality of life: 6.7
Net migration: 7.2

Denver maintains its reputation as being among the most desirable cities to live in the US, thanks to its bustling job market and more than 5,000 acres of trails, golf courses, playgrounds, and parks which many of the city’s prominent neighborhoods are built around. These factors also contribute to Denver’s population boom in the past few years.

13. Des Moines, Iowa
Overall score: 7.2
Desirability: 5.9
Value: 8.3
Job market: 7.5
Quality of life: 6.7
Net migration: 7.1

Des Moines has a strong job market with a median annual salary of $52,890. The city also maintains a low cost of living relative to annual household income, ranking fifth in the country in terms of affordability. Des Moines likewise ranks high in terms of net migration.

12. Ann Arbor, Michigan
Overall score: 7.2
Desirability: 6.3
Value: 7.1
Job market: 7.0
Quality of life: 7.3
Net migration: 8.4

This southeastern city in Michigan is home to the University of Michigan and boasts high school students ranking third in the US in terms of college readiness. Ann Arbor also came out on top of the rankings for access to quality healthcare, tied with neighboring Kalamazoo, Reading and York in Pennsylvania, and Trenton, New Jersey.

11. Boise, Idaho
Overall score: 7.2
Desirability: 6.3
Value: 7.1
Job market: 7.0
Quality of life: 7.3
Net migration: 8.4

Idaho’s capital posts high marks in terms of population growth and housing affordability, with residents needing to allocate just 22.11% of median household income to rent or mortgage payments, property taxes, and other housing costs. It also has a relatively stable employment market.

10. Portland, Oregon
Overall score: 7.2
Desirability: 9.6
Value: 6.0
Job market: 7.2
Quality of life: 6.8
Net migration: 7.1

Portland ranks fifth among the US’s most desirable places to live, trailing only San Francisco and Colorado Springs in the top 15. The city’s bustling job market has also contributed to a consistent population growth in the past five years, placing it in the top 10 in terms of net migration.

9. Sarasota, Florida
Overall score: 7.2
Desirability: 8.4
Value: 5.5
Job market: 6.5
Quality of life: 7.3
Net migration: 9.7

Located in Florida’s Gulf Coast, Sarasota has the second-fastest growing population among all cities on the list. It helps that beaches line the city, and the weather is virtually sunny all-year, meaning residents can frolic under the sun whenever they want to.

8. Portland, Maine
Overall score: 7.2
Desirability: 7.9
Value: 6.6
Job market: 7.6
Quality of life: 7.4
Net migration: 6.6

The largest and most populous city in Maine ranks high in terms of quality of life, job market stability, and desirability. Portland has experienced notable population growth in the past few years. College students are also a visible presence in the city, helping develop its reputation for liberal politics.

7. Naples, Florida
Overall score: 7.2
Desirability: 4.7
Value: 6.6
Job market: 6.9
Quality of life: 7.7
Net migration: 9.6

Naples has the fourth-fastest growing population among all cities on the list and for good reason – it boasts pristine beaches, sprawling golf courses, and a myriad of options for shopping and fine dining. The city also scores high in terms of quality of life, which factors in a low crime rate, healthcare services, and commute time.

6. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Overall score: 7.3
Desirability: 10.0
Value: 6.4
Job market: 6.9
Quality of life: 6.7
Net migration: 7.3

Colorado Springs tops the list most desirable places to live in the US, sharing the spot with Los Angeles and San Francisco in California, and Honolulu, Hawaii. Steady population growth and a consistently strong job market also help place the city near the top of the rankings.

5. Austin, Texas
Overall score: 7.3
Desirability: 7.8
Value: 6.5
Job market: 7.5
Quality of life: 7.0
Net migration: 8.5

A stable job market and continued long-term population growth have placed Austin near the top of the rankings. The city actually held the title of best place to live in the US for three consecutive years from 2017 to 2019, before falling to third spot last year and number five this year.

4. Fayetteville, Arkansas
Overall score: 7.3
Desirability: 5.6
Value: 8.1
Job market: 7.4
Quality of life: 7.2
Net migration: 8.0

Fayetteville has been a perennial contender for the best city title owing to its low cost of living, housing affordability, and strong population growth. It also boasts a strong job market and has become one of the centers of higher education, culture, and commerce in the state.

3. Huntsville, Alabama
Overall score: 7.4
Desirability: 5.5
Value: 8.7
Job market: 8.1
Quality of life: 7.0
Net migration: 7.2

This city in northern Alabama has taken the title of most affordable metro area to live in the US. It boasts a stable employment market, with many local companies focused on science, technology, engineering, and math, pushing the average annual salary higher for the city’s residents.

2. Raleigh & Durham, North Carolina
Overall score: 7.5
Desirability: 7.6
Value: 7.7
Job market: 7.5
Quality of life: 6.9
Net migration: 7.8

Raleigh and Durham continues to be an appealing place to relocate, thanks to the areas’ affordability and strong job market. Research, technology, education, and healthcare are among the fastest growing industries in the cities, pushing up median annual salaries of local employees.

1. Boulder, Colorado
Overall score: 7.6
Desirability: 8.5
Value: 6.0
Job market: 8.5
Quality of life: 8.2
Net migration: 6.9

Boulder takes the title of the country’s best place to live, thanks to its high marks in terms of desirability, quality of life, and job market stability. The city also boasts among the most college-ready high school students, sharing the spot with San Jose, California. Residents in the city can enjoy a high quality of life with mountain views, more than 60 parks, and 155 miles of hiking trails right on their doorstep.

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