When choosing where to live, Americans consider a variety of factors. For some, the quality of schools is important. For others, the strength of the local economy or personal safety takes priority.
To determine America’s best cities to live in, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on the 550 areas measured by the U.S. Census Bureau with populations of 65,000 or more.
Based on a range of variables, including crime rates, employment growth, educational attainment, and housing affordability, 24/7 Wall St. identified America’s 50 best cities to live.
SPECIAL REPORT: The 50 best cities in America to live in and how they were chosen
Because of its importance, the labor market was one of the key measures we used to identify the best cities. In order to be considered, a city needed positive employment growth between 2011 and 2013 and an unemployment rate of no more than 9.8%, roughly one-third higher than the national rate last year.
We also measured the availability of certain amenities. According to Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac, access to outdoor activities, beautiful parks and sports clubs “are the type of amenities that often will set apart certain communities from others.”
Many of the best cities are located near major cities, as this proximity provides residents with access to good schools and safe neighborhoods, while also allowing them to enjoy the amenities available in the nearby larger cities.
However, none of America’s largest cities were among the nation’s best places to live. Nearly all of these had crime rates that automatically excluded them from consideration. Additionally, more than half of these cities had poverty rates above 21.1%, or 33% above the national average, making them ineligible.
Here are the top 5 of America’s best cities to live in:
5. Evanston, Illinois
> Median household income: $68,169
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 7.20%
> Median home value: $360,900
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 304.7
> Average commuter travel time: 28.4 minutes
More than two-thirds of adults living in Evanston had completed at least a bachelor’s degree, among the highest educational attainment rates in the nation. Younger Evanston residents seem to be on track to get a good education as well. Secondary school students performed above average on math and language arts standardized tests in 2013. Additionally, Northwestern University, one of the nation’s top universities, is based in Evanston.
In addition to a well-educated populace, Evanston residents have plenty of entertainment options available to them. Cook County, which includes Chicago, had 49 museums and 192 libraries as of 2012. There were also nearly 9,000 restaurants and more than 900 bars — more than any other county in the nation.
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4. Pleasanton, California
> Median household income: $112,665
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 3.70%
> Median home value: $694,300
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 68.2
> Average commuter travel time: 28.9 minutes
Like many of the best cities to live in, Pleasanton is relatively safe. There were less than 70 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2012, among the lowest rates nationwide. A typical household earned more than $112,000, more than all but a handful of U.S. cities. And the unemployment rate in Pleasanton was just 3.7% last year, also among the lowest rates nationwide.
Local students have access to a high-quality education. Secondary school children performed well above the state average in math, language arts, and science last year.
While median income was among the highest in the country, cost of living was also expensive. Property values in Pleasanton were among the highest in the nation. A typical home in the area was valued at nearly $695,000, more than all but six other cities reviewed.