The 10 Best Places To Live In Massachusetts For 2021


We used science and data to determine which Bay State cities are the real gems.

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There’s more to Massachusetts than Boston. There’s Martha’s Vineyard, Harvard, the Boston Red Sox, as well as some of the best cities in America. Lucky for you, HomeSnacks took the guessing out of Massachusetts’ places to live and created a list of the top ten best places in Massachusetts for Newton based on science.

Ask any Bay Stater and they will tell you that there’s definitely more to their best cities than just numbers. However, to put the best of the best Massachusetts cities into perspective, we measured household income, home prices, education, and safety. The competition was wicked fierce to say the least. The best cities in Massachusetts really brought their A-game.

So not surprising, many of our top ten cities house global leading companies in biotechnology, engineering, higher education, and finance. All Fortune 500 companies and fancy islands aside, Massachusetts is the sixth oldest state in the country. We think that’s all the more reason that they should have the best cities. They’ve had some time to perfect them. And that’s just what the Massachusetts’ cities on our top ten best places to live list have done

So grab yourself a bowl of baked beans, a frosty Cape Cod, and read on.

The 10 Best Places To Live In Massachusetts For 2021

  1. Newton
  2. Melrose
  3. Woburn
  4. Newburyport
  5. Beverly
  6. Medford
  7. Waltham
  8. Cambridge
  9. Somerville
  10. Peabody

Massachusetts’ cities are known for their quirky ‘we discovered America’ eastern culture with amazing local flare and out-of-this-world ‘chowdah’ carts. Needless to say, it was difficult to narrow down Massachusetts’ best cities to a list of ten.

So, what city is the best place to live in Massachusetts for 2021? Well according to the UC Census and FBI data we crunched, Newton is the best place to live in the Baked Bean State.

To see a list of Massachusetts’ other best cities, take a look below. And if you don’t see your favorite city there, head to the bottom.

If you’re looking for something more national, check out the best states in America or the best places to live in America.

For more Massachusetts reading, check out:

The 10 Best Places To Live In Massachusetts For 2021

Newton, MA

Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 88,593
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $914,700
Unemployment Rate: 2.8%
More on Newton: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Kudos to Newton for holding onto the title of best place to live in Massachusetts for the second year running. An affluent suburb of Boston, there’s a lot about Newton that makes it an enviable place to live. For starters, the poverty level and unemployment rate in Newton are both the lowest in the state, sitting at 4.3% and 2.8% respectively. It’s also place with the 2nd lowest crime rate in Mass.

Newton takes education seriously. I mean, it is home to a campus of the prestigious Boston College and Lasell University. So it’s no surprise that three-quarters of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree and nearly 50% have a master’s degree or higher. Having these schools around comes with other perks, like being able to catch an Eagles game at Alumni Stadium without traveling far. In terms of public schools, Newton’s school district spends about 20% more per student than the statewide average, so you know your kiddo will get all the resources they need to succeed here. And it pays off because Newton has the lowest high school dropout rate in Massachusetts. That’s just part of the reason why we included Newton in our list of the best family cities in Mass.

If you do decide to settle down in Newton, you should know it won’t come cheap. Newton has the most expensive home prices in the state at $914,700. Residents also earn the highest median household income, though, at $151,068/year. You may want a job paying around that much if you want to live comfortably here. Especially since the cost of living in Newton is roughly 115% higher than the national average.

Melrose, MA

Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 28,113
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $570,300
Unemployment Rate: 2.8%
More on Melrose: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

We’re sticking around the Greater Boston area for our 2nd best place to live in Massachusetts, Melrose. Like Newton, Melrose is one of the richest places in Massachusetts, so you’d better come prepared for that reality. Homes go for a median price of $570,300, the 4th highest in the state. Residents also enjoy the 3rd highest median household income, though, so it all works out as long as your home is bringing in around $106,955/year.

The poverty level and unemployment rate are the lowest in Massachusetts, at 4.1% and 2.8%. Seeing as economic difficulties and criminal activities usually correlate, it’s no surprise that these low numbers also make Melrose incredibly safe. In fact, Melrose had the 3rd lowest crime rate in the state, roughly 75% lower than the national average.

On the less statistical side of things, there are a lot of great spots for outdoorsmen and women in the Melrose area. A local favorite would be Middlesex Fells Reservation, a massive park with hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and plenty more on offer.

Woburn, MA

Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 40,304
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $453,900
Unemployment Rate: 3.0%
More on Woburn: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Located about 10 miles north of Boston, Woburn comes in as the 3rd best place to call home in Massachusetts. The cost of living in Woburn is substantially higher than the national average, but compared to Newton and Melrose, it’s actually quite affordable. And you still get access to great outdoorsy spaces, like Horn Pond. People seem to be taking notice of this economical advantage because Woburn’s population has been growing at a fairly rapid pace in recent years.

Woburn has the 11th lowest crime rate in Mass, so you don’t need to worry about hooligans messing up your good time here. If an unfortunate accident does befall you, though, it should be alright in the end, seeing as 98.3% of residents have health insurance, the 3rd highest rate in the state.

You shouldn’t have trouble locking down a job and staying afloat in Woburn, because the unemployment rate is just 3.0. And most people do pretty well for themselves here, because the median household income is $91,022/year.

Newburyport, MA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 18,077
Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $548,400
Unemployment Rate: 3.5%
More on Newburyport: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Newburyport is a small city located on the southern bank of the Merrimack River, five miles south of New Hampshire. This historic seaport has a population with a median age of 48, making it the oldest place we’ll be covering on this list. That experience comes in handy when making an equitable economy. Only 5.9% of residents live below the poverty level, the 4th lowest rate in Massachusetts. And since older folks with plenty of cash don’t usually go in for crime, Newburyport having the 5th lowest crime rate in the state is unsurprising.

The motto “stay in school” certainly applies in Newburyport, which has the 3rd lowest high school dropout rate in Mass. That dedication pays off, because Newburyport enjoys some seriously high paychecks, with the median household income at $109,839/year. Which is kind of necessary when you’re also paying the 5th most for homes in the state.

Downtown Newburyport is plenty scenic on its own, but we recommend spending a day on Plum Island as well. Anyone who’s into beaches, bird-watching, fishing, or relaxing is guaranteed to have a good time here.

Beverly, MA

Overall SnackAbility

9.5
/10

Population: 41,885
Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $437,300
Unemployment Rate: 3.4%
More on Beverly: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Beverly is a city of 41,885 located on Massachusetts’ North Shore. If having shows and concerts in your area is a big draw for you, then you may consider bumping Beverly up a few spots on this list. With the Larcom Theatre putting on new musical and performing arts acts every month and The Cabot hosting concerts as well as movies, you’ll never have to think hard about what to do on date night.

Parents will also be delighted to learn that the Beverly School District spends roughly 50% more per student than the Massachusetts average. And you won’t have to worry about your children’s safety in Beverly either, because the crime rate here is about 75% lower than the national average and ranks as the lowest in Massachusetts.

As for the economy, there are no red flags in Beverly. Unemployment is low at 3.4% and the poverty level of 9.3% is the 11th lowest in Mass. And while a median household income of $80,586/year is on the low end for this list, it’s still the 10th highest in the state.

Medford, MA

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 57,637
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $500,800
Unemployment Rate: 2.8%
More on Medford: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

We’re going to take a short drive north up to another Boston suburb to reach our 6th best city in Massachusetts, Medford. Medford has the 2nd lowest unemployment rate in Mass at 2.8% and the 9th lowest levels of poverty at 8.8%. Since gainfully employed people who earn good money have little reason to commit crimes, Medford also has the 9th lowest crime rate in the state as well.

Medford is also home to the highly-acclaimed Tufts University, so if having some of the state’s smartest people in your neighborhood sounds like a good thing, you’ll feel right at home here. These smarts really pay off for residents, who enjoy the 6th highest median household income in Mass at $96,455/year.

Waltham, MA

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 62,777
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $536,500
Unemployment Rate: 3.0%
More on Waltham: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Located about 25 minutes west of Boston, Waltham comes in as the 7th best place to live in Massachusetts. Public schools in Waltham can give every student the attention they need because their 11:1 student-teacher ratio is 20% better than the statewide average. Parents have more reason to love Waltham because at $95,964/year, residents enjoy the 7th highest median household income in Mass. And the economy works for everyone in Waltham because unemployment and poverty rates are both around the lowest in the state. If you work in higher education, you might just be able to snag a job at Bentley or Brandeis University, the city’s top employers.

The crime rate in Waltham is the 6th lowest in Massachusetts, so you don’t need to worry about criminal activity going down in Prospect Hill Park. You just have to worry if the day is clear enough for an epic view of Boston’s skyline.

As a bonus perk to living in Waltham, know that you’ll have the 11th shortest commute time in the state and the lowest you’ll see on this list at 25 minutes on average.

Cambridge, MA

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 116,632
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $768,300
Unemployment Rate: 4.0%
More on Cambridge: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

It’s hard to know where to start with a city as amazing as Cambridge. Globally known as the home to Harvard and MIT, living in Cambridge gives you access to all the attendant goodies that come with the prestigious institutions. Like having some of the best museums in the state, for both art and natural history. It’s no surprise that a place with so much going on is also one of the fastest growing cities in Massachusetts.

There’s no question about it: if you want to live in a place with young people and fresh ideas, Cambridge is going to be an absolute delight for you. It’s the youngest place on this list, with a median age of 30. It’s also the 2nd most densely populated spot in the state, so it’s impossible to be far from the action here. Congregating in Harvard Square will probably be your first stop on any day or night out with friends.

There’s only one catch to Cambridge: it’s one of the most expensive cities in Massachusetts. The cost of living is about 80% higher than the national average and homes go for the 2nd highest median price in the state. In other words, you might want to make sure your household is earning in or around $103,154/year if you want to live comfortably in Cambridge.

Somerville, MA

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 80,906
Rank Last Year: 9 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $664,700
Unemployment Rate: 3.3%
More on Somerville: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Somerville is a city of 80,906 located just northwest of Boston. If you like to be in the center of the action, Somerville is probably your best bet. Not only is it the most densely populated city in Massachusetts, but it’s also the most densely populated city in all of New England. That’s part of the reason we named Somerville the best city for singles in Massachusetts. There’s no central business district in Somerville, but a spread of different neighborhoods with their own personalities. This gives you a variety of options for how to spend your free time, from the shopaholic paradise of Assembly Row to the vibrant nightlife of Davis Square.

You may want to brush up on your trivia before a pub quiz night in Somerville because people here are hyper-educated. About 30% of residents have a master’s degree, PhD, or professional degree, to give you an idea. That level of education helps residents earn the 5th highest median household income in the state at $97,328/year. Which is welcome when you’re also paying the 3rd highest home prices in the state at $664,700.

Peabody, MA

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 52,906
Rank Last Year: 10 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $387,400
Unemployment Rate: 4.0%
More on Peabody: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

We’re finishing our tour of Massachusetts’ best of the best with Peabody, a city of 52,906 in the North Shore region. Peabody has the 15th cheapest median home price of cities on this list, at $387,400, so it’s easier to get your foot in the door here. In fact, the cost of living in Peabody is only a hair higher than the Massachusetts average, making it the most affordable spot on this list. On the other hand, at $73,217/year, it’s also the place with the lowest median household income on this list.

Peabody is incredibly safe, recording the 8th lowest crime rate in Massachusetts for 2021. And if something unfortunate does happen, you’re probably covered, because 97.4% of residents have health insurance, the 14th highest rate in the state. It isn’t hard to stay healthy in Peabody, though. That’s because you can pick your own fresh produce from Brooksby Farm, year-round.

Mapping The Best And Worst Places To Live in Massachusetts

The Pressing Question: Size

Before we even started to collect data, we had to answer a tough question: Is it fair to pit Boston with a population of 684,379 against places with a population of 18?

We firmly decided no, that just isn’t fair.

So to create our ranking, we broke places to live into three tiers:

  • Cities — Populations over 12,000
  • Towns — Populations between 1,000 and 12,000
  • Small Towns — Populations below 1,000

This left us with 39 cities, 107 towns, and 14 small towns.

We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best cities to live in Massachusetts have more of everything and therefore you need to have over 12,000 people to truly be ‘the best’.

Now we also realize that city living might not be your cup of tea, so we ran the following analysis on towns and then again for small towns.

You can see those two top tens at the bottom of the post.

How We Calculated The Best Cities To Live In Massachusetts

Now that we had our set of cities, it was time to rank them.

We ranked each place in Massachusetts across a number of criteria from one to 39, with one being the best.

We then took the average rank across all criteria, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title “Best Place To Live In Massachusetts”.

The criteria we looked at were:

  • Median Home Values
  • Median Income
  • Population Density (Higher better)
  • Unemployment Rate
  • Commute Time
  • Crime
  • Education Levels
  • Health Insurance Coverage
  • Poverty rates

Sources of criteria include the New Census Data and FBI Crime Data. You can download the data here.

After the dust settled, what was the best place to live in Massachusetts? That would be Newton.

If your city or town isn’t among the top 10, jump down to the bottom of the post to see a detailed chart of the best places in Massachusetts.

Otherwise, buckle up for a ride down good living lane with Newton at the end of the cul-de-sac.

Wrapping Up The Best Places When It Comes To Living In Massachusetts

If you’re looking at areas in Massachusetts with the best economic situations, where there’s lower than average crime, and a lot to do, this is an accurate list.

Newton made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for the best place to live in Massachusetts for 2021.

Best Towns To Live In Massachusetts

  1. Forestdale (Pop. 4,888)
  2. Topsfield (Pop. 3,435)
  3. Dover (Pop. 2,453)
  4. The Pinehills (Pop. 1,275)
  5. Nahant (Pop. 3,471)
  6. Cordaville (Pop. 2,847)
  7. South Duxbury (Pop. 3,684)
  8. Duxbury (Pop. 1,498)
  9. West Falmouth (Pop. 2,021)
  10. Essex (Pop. 1,476)

Best Small Towns To Live In Massachusetts

  1. Seabrook (Pop. 413)
  2. Siasconset (Pop. 183)
  3. Madaket (Pop. 307)
  4. New Seabury (Pop. 900)
  5. Mashpee Neck (Pop. 877)
  6. Edgartown (Pop. 649)
  7. Petersham (Pop. 220)
  8. Cheshire (Pop. 647)
  9. Blandford (Pop. 352)
  10. Brookfield (Pop. 675)

If you’re curious enough, here are the worst places to live in Massachusetts according to the data:

  1. Holyoke (Pop. 40,241)
  2. New Bedford (Pop. 95,239)
  3. Springfield (Pop. 154,139)

For more Massachusetts reading, check out:

Where Are The Best Places To Live In Massachusetts?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Newton 88,593 2.8% $914,700
2 Melrose 28,113 2.8% $570,300
3 Woburn 40,304 3.0% $453,900
4 Newburyport 18,077 3.5% $548,400
5 Beverly 41,885 3.4% $437,300
6 Medford 57,637 2.8% $500,800
7 Waltham 62,777 3.0% $536,500
8 Cambridge 116,632 4.0% $768,300
9 Somerville 80,906 3.3% $664,700
10 Peabody 52,906 4.0% $387,400
11 Gloucester 30,162 4.4% $425,400
12 Westfield 41,449 4.3% $234,400
13 Attleboro 44,789 4.8% $292,900
14 Northampton 28,516 3.7% $332,100
15 Salem 43,252 4.0% $367,200
16 Marlborough 39,736 4.0% $348,500
17 Quincy 94,207 5.1% $428,600
18 Haverhill 63,533 5.2% $300,600
19 Malden 60,984 5.0% $401,900
20 Revere 53,692 5.4% $373,800
21 Boston 684,379 6.6% $532,700
22 Taunton 57,124 6.5% $271,800
23 Gardner 20,610 3.9% $185,700
24 Everett 46,118 5.2% $405,800
25 Lowell 111,306 5.8% $269,800
26 Leominster 41,606 5.9% $241,800
27 Pittsfield 42,766 5.7% $174,300
28 Chicopee 55,421 5.9% $182,100
29 Worcester 185,143 5.6% $227,100
30 Lynn 93,743 5.9% $323,100
31 Chelsea 39,992 4.7% $350,800
32 Fitchburg 40,702 8.3% $196,600
33 Lawrence 79,942 9.3% $271,100
34 Fall River 89,388 8.4% $242,200
35 Brockton 95,594 8.3% $264,800
36 North Adams 12,959 5.5% $140,900
37 Holyoke 40,241 6.0% $195,800
38 New Bedford 95,239 6.4% $226,900
39 Springfield 154,139 8.2% $156,200

How Is Your Town In ?

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

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.