10 Best Places To Live In Massachusetts For 2020


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

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the best places to live in Massachusetts.

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.

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 2020? 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 2020

Newton, MA

Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 88,660
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $886,100 (1st best)
Unemployment Rate: 2.9% (2nd best)
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 2nd lowest in the state, sitting at 4.3% and 2.9% respectively. It's also place with the 4th 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 $886,100. Residents also earn the highest median household income, though, at $139,696/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: 28,116
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $508,700 (5th best)
Unemployment Rate: 2.8% (1st best)
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 $508,700, the 5th highest in the state. Residents also enjoy the 2nd highest median household income, though, so it all works out as long as your home is bringing in around $103,743/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 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: 40,298
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $421,200 (9th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.7% (4th best)
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 6th 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 98.2% 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 3.7. And most people do pretty well for themselves here, because the median household income is $88,745/year.

Newburyport, MA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

10
/10

Population: 17,990
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $514,700 (4th best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.4% (9th best)
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 49, making it the oldest place we'll be covering on this list. That experience comes in handy when making an equitable economy. Only 5.2% of residents live below the poverty level, the 3rd lowest rate in Massachusetts. And since older folks with plenty of cash don't usually go in for crime, Newburyport having the 3rd 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 $103,220/year. Which is kind of necessary when you're also paying the 4th 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: 41,731
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $411,700 (10th best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.1% (6th best)
More on Beverly: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Beverly is a city of 41,731 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 2nd lowest in Massachusetts.

As for the economy, there are no red flags in Beverly. Unemployment is low at 4.1% and the poverty level of 8.2% is the 7th lowest in Mass. And while a median household income of $79,483/year is on the low end for this list, it's still the 9th highest in the state.

Cambridge, MA

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 115,665
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $719,300 (2nd best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.4% (10th best)
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 $95,404/year if you want to live comfortably in Cambridge.

Medford, MA

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 57,771
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $464,400 (8th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.3% (3rd best)
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 7th best city in Massachusetts, Medford. Medford has the 3rd lowest unemployment rate in Mass at 3.3% and the 10th lowest levels of poverty at 9.2%. Since gainfully employed people who earn good money have little reason to commit crimes, Medford also has the 8th 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 5th highest median household income in Mass at $92,363/year.

Waltham, MA

Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 62,979
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $497,100 (6th best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.3% (7th best)
More on Waltham: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Located about 25 minutes west of Boston, Waltham comes in as the 8th 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 $85,677/year, residents enjoy the 8th 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 9th 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 13th shortest commute time in the state and the lowest you'll see on this list at 26 minutes on average.

Somerville, MA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 80,434
Rank Last Year: 9 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $616,100 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.9% (5th best)
More on Somerville: Real Estate | Crime Report | Cost Of Living

Somerville is a city of 80,434 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 6th highest median household income in the state at $91,168/year. Which is welcome when you're also paying the 3rd highest home prices in the state at $616,100.

Peabody, MA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

9
/10

Population: 52,865
Rank Last Year: 10 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $372,300 (15th best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.9% (12th best)
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 52,865 in the North Shore region. Peabody has the 15th cheapest median home price of cities on this list, at $372,300, 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 $68,387/year, it's also the place with the lowest median household income on this list.

Peabody is incredibly safe, recording the 11th lowest crime rate in Massachusetts for 2020. And if something unfortunate does happen, you're probably covered, because 97.8% of residents have health insurance, the 8th 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 679,413 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 13,000
  • Towns -- Populations between 1,000 and 13,000
  • 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 13,000 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 2020.

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. 40,376)
  2. North Adams (Pop. 13,089)
  3. Springfield (Pop. 154,596)

For more Massachusetts reading, check out:

Where Are The Best Places To Live In Massachusetts?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Newton 88,660 2.9% $886,100
2 Melrose 28,116 2.8% $508,700
3 Woburn 40,298 3.7% $421,200
4 Newburyport 17,990 4.4% $514,700
5 Beverly 41,731 4.1% $411,700
6 Cambridge 115,665 4.4% $719,300
7 Medford 57,771 3.3% $464,400
8 Waltham 62,979 4.3% $497,100
9 Somerville 80,434 3.9% $616,100
10 Peabody 52,865 4.9% $372,300

How Is Your Town In ?

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.

10 thoughts on “10 Best Places To Live In Massachusetts For 2020

    1. I had the same question & wondered why the Cape & Islands were left out? I’d be very happy in Wellfleet, North Truro or Provincetown. I assume the “Cape” is not so depressed because they have the tourist trade?…ditto for the islands.

  1. This study really should be titled, “These are the best places for rich people to live in Massachusetts.

    I’d like to see a similar study that examines cities with a median income is close to the state’s median. Then you would see where the best schools money can’t buy are. Where can people get the median-priced home for for the median income.

    For Wellesley you say, “In fact, there are probably enough butler and landscaping jobs available here to put every single unemployed resident to work. That’s actually not a bad idea”. Truth be told, those butler and landscaping jobs wouldn’t provide enough money to afford that median $994K house cost – or one within a standard deviation or two lower. These butlers and landscapers would most often live outside of the 495 loop in place like Lowell, for example.

    1. Not really, lived in some of these towns and they are awful! Newton is nice, but Peabody, Beverly, Merose and Marlborough/Marlboro…some nice parts, but crappy places to live.

  2. Merrimac is way better than Cambridge (not that I have a problem with Cambridge.) Andover is way better than Brookline or Reading (not that they’re bad at all.) Groveland should be in the top 10, or at least close to it.

  3. First of all, that is not a picture of Sharon, not sure what town that is. Secondly, who has butlers anymore? Yes, cleaning ladies, nanny’s and professional landscapers, but I think that’s it, lol. I just thought I’d give my 2 cents about Sharon since I live nearby and am very familiar with the town and the people living in it. Sharon is conveniently located between Boston and Providence. Sharon is a bedroom community right next door to Foxborough, with high taxes and homes that cost more than the same exact thing in neighboring towns. There is no major benefactor or industry so the high taxes are what keeps the town up to its standards. If you have children, it might seem like a desirable choice. However things are not as they seem. The schools are touted as “excellent” but the truth is the data is based on test scores. The average text scores are high because the parents send their kids off to Kumon right after school. You can see a school bus after school every day in the Shaws Plaza off exit 8 on 95 with kids getting off and entering the testing center https://www.kumon.com/sharon/ Smoke and mirrors. The teachers are not better than any of the neighboring towns and neither are the facilities. The parents have more money, so generally speaking you will have children of more educated people in the schools, so yes, you will have smarter children, or children of parents who value education more compared to a middle/working class town. But when you hear about the “great schools” it’s the test scores that you are really looking at. I have heard from people who work in education that the students in Sharon are under so much stress due to pressure to do well that they break down often. One good thing to note, Sharon is known for having a great program for children with learning disabilities. Highly educated families with disabled children, autism, preemies, etc find that very enticing and are moving there in droves. Sharon is an upper middle class town, so you will deal with some degree of snobbery as well (similar to Swampscott, Concord, Winchester, Weston or Wellesley). A few years back, a friend who just moved to Sharon and had a small child was not happy with the women in the local moms club and asked to be in the neighboring towns moms club. The data says that the town is diverse, but it really isn’t. The town was once a vacation community a long time ago because of beautiful Lake Massapoag. In the 1960’s and 70’s, many Jewish people moved to Sharon due to blockbusting and the busing crisis in Boston. At the time, it was middle class and people lived in split levels or smaller homes. In the 1990’s new developments were built with McMansions. The town then became exclusive and incredibly expensive. Jewish people were the largest ethnic group for over 40 years (however that is changing as they simply cannot afford it anymore and are moving to nearby Mansfield, Foxborough and Easton), All Sharon schools have the most important Jewish holidays off. Sharon now is home to a mosque, Islamic Center of New England, http://icne.net/ which is indicative of the very large Muslim population that moved in during the 90’s when the new developments were being built. The “multicultural” town of Sharon is a relatively new thing because the highly educated Indians and Chinese who have moved in. You will not find Hispanic, Southeast Asian or black people in Sharon. Indians move to Sharon because it’s the place to be for them as their friends and colleagues have moved there. It’s following the same pattern with the Jewish people in the 1960’s and 70’s. The newer ethic groups in Sharon that make the town seem “multicultural” do not assimilate and stay within the confines of their own groups socially. There was an article in 2011’s Money Magazine citing Sharon as the 11th best place to live in the country and that is simply not true. Somebody living in Sharon must have paid someone off at that magazine to raise property values, lol. Sharon has an MBTA commuter rail stop with 2 parking lots owned by the town. Because the lots are owned by the town, the town gets to dictate parking. For example, one lot is for Sharon residents and the other lot is for both Sharon and out of town residents. Sharon residents have been very vocal about not wanting any out of town people parking in the second lot. They feel that since they own the land, and they pay such high taxes, it should all be theirs. Unfortunately there are only enough spots in it’s entirety to fit one third of Sharon residents so the town parking passes sell out within an hour of going on sale. Legally, some spots have to be open to out of town people, so, they gave all the bad spots (and there are not that many) in the second lot to the non-residents. So there is a certain entitlement factor you are dealing with in Sharon. To be clear, Mansfield has an MBTA commuter rail stop and one lot is for the residents of Mansfield, and the other lot is owned by the MBTA. Neighboring Foxborough residents have a lot nearby that they can park in as well which is very convenient when there is bad weather and there are no spots in the Sharon lot for out of town commuters. Kraft is working on getting an MBTA stop in Foxborough. Yes, Sharon is a safe place to live with a beautiful lake and good schools but you can get that in any of the neighboring towns for much less (minus the lake) although Wrentham has Lake Pearl which is beautiful, and don’t forget the outlets. Foxborough is a small quiet town as well with the stadium not being an issue as it is located on the highway. Foxborough benefits financially from having Patriot Place and the stadium technically located in the town. Foxborough Mansfield and Easton are wonderful options as they all have excellent schools. So, I hope I clarified the reality of Sharon and people can make an informed decision on any town they choose to live in based upon those criteria

  4. No talk about schools? Diversity? Sensible affordable housing? These stats are indeed elitist. Obviously there will less poverty if it’s all rich people living there!!! Unemployment rate???

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