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.
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The 10 Best Places To Live In America For 2021
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).
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, 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.
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.
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, 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.
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, 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 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.
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:
For more reading about America: