The 10 Best Places To Live In America For 2021


We looked at the places in the United States with low crime, lots of jobs and the best schools to determine the best places to live in America.

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Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the best places to live in America.

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There’s a common denominator that all good cities have. They’re safe. They have great schools. There’s lots of jobs and things to do and crimes are really low.

You know them when you see them. It’s the kind of places where everyone wants to live. If home prices are too low, it’s a sign it’s a bad place to live and. If crime is really high no one wants to live 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 best cities in a state series, which was featured in hundreds of media outlets, including an NPR feature. To determine the best places to live in America, we decided cities needed to have lots of things to do, lots of jobs, high incomes, low housing vacancies, great schools and low crime. The cities we’re going to talk about all share those qualities.

After analyzing the biggest 207 cities in the country, here is our list of the best places to live in America.

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.

What’s the best place to live in America? According to the most recent data from the Census and FBI, Cambridge is the best place to live in America for 2021.

The worst place to live in America? Memphis. More on that later.

For more reading, check out:

The 10 Best Places To Live In America For 2021

Cambridge, MA

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 116,632
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $768,300 (10th best)
Median Income: $103,154 (12th best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.0% (3best)
More on Cambridge: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

The best place to live in America goes to Cambridge, MA — the better version of Boston. While Boston might have Boston University or Boston College, Cambridge has MIT and Harvard. And while Boston might be an awesome place to live, Cambridge is a bit better.

The median income in Cambridge comes in at a rocking $103,154 and home prices average about $768,300 meaning that there’s big demand to live here. And that makes sense as there are a ton of tech jobs available in the area at big startups like Hubspot or Biogen with big players like Google and Pfizer hosting offices in town.

Cambridge is the kind of place that you can brag to your high school friends about living in at the 15 or 20 year reunion (because there’s no way you’re buying a house there before that).

Sunnyvale, CA

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 152,770
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $1,223,600 (best)
Median Income: $140,631 (best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.0% (29th best)
More on Sunnyvale: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

You may have heard it before — Sunnyvale is simply an amazing place to live. Sunnyvale, California has been known around the streets as a great place to live, according to our unbiased data. It’s the 2nd best place to live in America. Why? Well let’s take a peek.

First off it would be hard to find a better place to raise kids then in this Silicon Valley city, which has the highest home values in the country. You can make the case that home prices really do determine how great a place is, because people speak with their cash. Other factors: really low crime, high population density, and just about everyone who wants a job has a job.

And Sunnyvale isn’t just for nerds, either.

Torrance, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 145,492
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $762,700 (11th best)
Median Income: $93,492 (20th best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.0% (30th best)
More on Torrance: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

Torrance, California ranks as the 3rd best place to live in America. Here in Torrance, the number of people employed is really high. Part of that’s because it’s located right in the Southern California growing tech scene. Crime here is far lower than in other nearby cities like Long Beach, and it’s not as expensive to live here as it is in nearby Pacific Palisades or Manhattan Beach. However, the average home value here is $762,700, and the income levels are only about $93,492 meaning, yes, Torrance is an awesome place to live but the cost of living is extremely high.

Just like in many of the other California cities we mentioned, people in Torrance have all sorts of opportunities for fun. There’s plenty of shopping in Torrance malls and such.

Bellevue, WA

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 144,403
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 5)
Median Home Value: $809,200 (8th best)
Median Income: $120,456 (5th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.4% (10th best)
More on Bellevue: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

Welcome to one of 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 Bellevue, the median household brings in more than $120,456 a year annually. And, this is just about the safest place you can live in the state of Washington. Most of the successful people who commute into Seattle live here.

There’s a reason Bellevue was the fastest-growing city in Washington for a number of years in the early 2000’s.

Fremont, CA

Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 235,740
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 6)
Median Home Value: $931,600 (5th best)
Median Income: $133,354 (2nd best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.6% (14th best)
More on Fremont: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

We’re gonna stay in California with the next best place to live in America, Fremont, California. It’s a San Francisco suburb the weather here isn’t as nice as it is down south, and at times, it can be downright dreary. Plus Bay Area traffic is a real mess, and the cost of living makes it hard for people to get ahead.

But throw that all aside when you look at the actual data. This San Francisco 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 really 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.

Cary, NC

Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 166,268
Rank Last Year: 6 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $356,400 (53rd best)
Median Income: $104,669 (10th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.2% (7th best)
More on Cary: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

Cary, North Carolina is the 6th best place to live in the US.

Chances are if you live in Cary 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 region, 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.

Irvine, CA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 273,157
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $838,000 (7th best)
Median Income: $105,126 (9th best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.5% (45th best)
More on Irvine: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

The 7th best city in America is the city of Irvine, California. Irvine has been cited as one of the best places to live in the country, and the technology and art scene here is simply booming. Irvine is definitely one of the most desirable places to live if you want to live in the Los Angeles area.

People here are wealthy and there’s plenty of jobs, and low crime. The population here is growing pretty fast too. In fact, lots of people think it’s getting too crowded here. Well you can imagine why. The population here is exploding — and just a year ago, the city grew at an 8% clip, which is stunning.

A ‘super suburb’ indeed.

Huntington Beach, CA

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 200,259
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $771,100 (9th best)
Median Income: $95,046 (18th best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.3% (40th best)
More on Huntington Beach: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

Huntington Beach, California ranks as the 8th best place to live in America. California cities have a lot to do and they have a great economy. Huntington Beach is no exception. 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.

Huntington Beach is located in Orange County, south of LA. Here in Huntington Beach, the schools are some of the best in the US, where funding levels are really high, and where overcrowded schools are non existent. Who wouldn’t want to live at the beach, too? Huntington Beach has a lot to do and doesn’t have the riffraff you’d find in some of the other Southern California beaches.

However, the downside of living in Huntington Beach is competing with all the other people who want to come to the beach. If you’ve never been here, parking in the summer can be a real pain in the rear. But when you have hotties like this in your front yard every day, you’ll probably make an exception or two.

Thousand Oaks, CA

Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 127,873
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 5)
Median Home Value: $726,100 (12th best)
Median Income: $109,378 (8th best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.5% (47th best)
More on Thousand Oaks: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

Thousand Oaks is no stranger to our national lists as it has been one of the richest and safest places to live in America. However, it had always been on the outside looking in when it came to the best places to live in America, but not this year. This year, Thousand Oaks ranks as the 9th best place to live in America.

Why the jump this year? Well, safety improved some relative to the competition, median home values have remained high. and people continue to move into town in droves. The schools have solid score on GreatSchools, there’s great weather being in Southern California, and you’re close to Los Angeles without being too close — all good things in a place.

When you’re in town you should check out the Gardens of the World or Wildwood Regional Park, both excellent family affairs.

Gilbert, AZ

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 243,254
Rank Last Year: 10 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $328,700 (6best)
Median Income: $96,857 (16th best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.1% (32nd best)
More on Gilbert: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

Our 10th stop on our tour of the best cities to live in the US, is surprisingly Gilbert, Arizona. Gilbert’s located near Phoenix. Gilbert has grown at an extremely high rate over the last 30 year, from only 6,000 people to more than 200,000 people. That means lots of people want to live here. Households in Gilbert bring in about $96,857 annually, which is the highest in the state of Arizona. And crime is just about as low as you can expect for a city of its size.

Gilbert has its downsides. Obviously it’s hotter than blazes in these parts, where you might have to wear an oven mitt to get to work. Some people might not like it that much. Eskimos for example, probably would hate it here.

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 2015-2019 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 207 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, Cambridge, is crowned the best place to live in America for 2021.

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. Or you can download the data here.

There You Have It — The Best Big Cities in America

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 live in Cambridge, or any of the other cities we mentioned, you’re lucky. If you don’t, we’re sure your city is also pretty cool.

Here’s a look at the worst places to live in America according to the data:

  1. Memphis
  2. Jackson
  3. Dayton

For more reading about America:

Detailed List Of The Best Places To Live In America

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Cambridge, MA 116,632 4.0% $768,300
2 Sunnyvale, CA 152,770 4.0% $1,223,600
3 Torrance, CA 145,492 4.0% $762,700
4 Bellevue, WA 144,403 3.4% $809,200
5 Fremont, CA 235,740 3.6% $931,600
6 Cary, NC 166,268 3.2% $356,400
7 Irvine, CA 273,157 4.5% $838,000
8 Huntington Beach, CA 200,259 4.3% $771,100
9 Thousand Oaks, CA 127,873 4.5% $726,100
10 Gilbert, AZ 243,254 4.1% $328,700
11 Santa Clara, CA 127,721 3.7% $1,034,000
12 Simi Valley, CA 125,842 4.5% $584,900
13 Frisco, TX 177,020 3.6% $395,900
14 Alexandria, VA 157,613 3.0% $572,900
15 Santa Clarita, CA 213,411 5.0% $537,000
16 Roseville, CA 135,637 4.6% $444,400
17 Scottsdale, AZ 250,602 3.3% $475,300
18 Pearland, TX 122,078 3.2% $244,800
19 Orange, CA 139,887 4.4% $656,100
20 Elk Grove, CA 170,825 5.5% $406,300
21 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 176,379 5.4% $495,800
22 Plano, TX 287,064 3.7% $320,100
23 Arvada, CO 118,746 3.8% $384,500
24 Chandler, AZ 252,692 3.7% $300,800
25 Olathe, KS 137,618 2.8% $238,100
26 San Jose, CA 1,027,690 4.7% $864,600
27 Ann Arbor, MI 120,735 3.9% $323,400
28 Mckinney, TX 182,055 3.2% $309,200
29 Seattle, WA 724,305 4.1% $663,100
30 Virginia Beach, VA 450,201 4.6% $280,800
31 Henderson, NV 300,116 5.8% $318,800
32 San Francisco, CA 874,961 4.2% $1,097,800
33 Fullerton, CA 139,611 6.5% $650,000
34 Santa Rosa, CA 179,701 4.7% $540,600
35 Pembroke Pines, FL 170,072 5.4% $288,700
36 Richardson, TX 116,432 3.8% $274,200
37 Sterling Heights, MI 132,476 4.1% $187,600
38 Round Rock, TX 124,434 5.2% $244,300
39 Miramar, FL 139,468 5.0% $299,900
40 Hayward, CA 159,293 4.4% $581,200
41 Coral Springs, FL 132,568 6.7% $354,100
42 Madison, WI 254,977 3.1% $246,300
43 Stamford, CT 129,309 6.3% $532,700
44 Corona, CA 166,972 5.1% $467,000
45 Concord, CA 129,183 5.0% $551,300
46 Thornton, CO 136,868 3.6% $322,200
47 San Diego, CA 1,409,573 5.8% $602,600
48 Berkeley, CA 121,485 5.3% $1,004,900
49 Surprise, AZ 135,450 5.8% $239,500
50 Fort Collins, CO 165,609 5.4% $367,900
51 Peoria, AZ 168,196 5.1% $264,500
52 Garden Grove, CA 173,258 4.5% $554,400
53 Chula Vista, CA 268,920 9.0% $492,700
54 Raleigh, NC 464,485 4.1% $248,300
55 Charleston, SC 135,257 3.4% $330,600
56 Yonkers, NY 199,968 6.6% $403,900
57 Chesapeake, VA 239,982 4.7% $273,700
58 Oceanside, CA 175,622 6.0% $492,600
59 Portland, OR 645,291 4.8% $412,000
60 Fargo, ND 121,889 3.2% $212,100
61 Jersey City, NJ 261,940 5.7% $373,700
62 New York, NY 8,419,316 6.3% $606,000
63 Cedar Rapids, IA 132,301 4.0% $141,800
64 Escondido, CA 151,300 4.7% $450,200
65 Lincoln, NE 283,839 3.4% $169,800
66 Anaheim, CA 349,964 5.2% $575,600
67 Vancouver, WA 180,556 5.0% $286,500
68 Fontana, CA 210,759 6.9% $371,700
69 Port St. Lucie, FL 189,396 4.7% $207,200
70 Sioux Falls, SD 177,117 3.0% $189,800
71 Provo, UT 116,403 4.6% $271,300
72 Oxnard, CA 208,154 5.7% $453,900
73 Denver, CO 705,576 3.8% $390,600
74 Austin, TX 950,807 3.7% $337,400
75 Cape Coral, FL 183,942 6.0% $229,400
76 Long Beach, CA 466,776 6.0% $556,100
77 Santa Ana, CA 332,794 5.1% $491,300
78 Kent, WA 131,118 5.5% $346,400
79 Visalia, CA 132,104 4.9% $236,400
80 Colorado Springs, CO 464,871 5.7% $269,800
81 Mesa, AZ 499,720 4.9% $226,500
82 Vallejo, CA 121,267 8.2% $370,000
83 Murfreesboro, TN 136,366 5.1% $238,000
84 Joliet, IL 147,826 6.0% $181,100
85 St. Petersburg, FL 261,338 5.1% $205,000
86 Tempe, AZ 187,454 5.1% $272,900
87 Reno, NV 246,500 5.4% $335,000
88 Salinas, CA 156,143 4.9% $415,000
89 St. Paul, MN 304,547 5.0% $208,000
90 Sacramento, CA 500,930 7.0% $336,900
91 Norman, OK 122,837 4.5% $183,200
92 Irving, TX 239,783 4.4% $177,500
93 Tacoma, WA 212,869 5.2% $277,900
94 Aurora, CO 369,111 4.6% $290,000
95 Eugene, OR 168,302 7.0% $288,600
96 Hampton, VA 135,041 6.1% $186,700
97 Ontario, CA 176,760 6.5% $375,000
98 Salem, OR 169,259 5.8% $242,800
99 Minneapolis, MN 420,324 5.1% $251,600
100 Worcester, MA 185,143 5.6% $227,100

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About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.