The best place to live in Pennsylvania you ask?
Why that’s easy of course.
Wrong, at least according to the most recent data from the Census and FBI that we are going to dive into today. And this wasn’t even a close one like trying to determine if you should root for the Steelers or Eagles.
We don’t take the decision to find the best place to live lightly, we believe in making the decision based on the cold hard facts and data instead of preconceived notions. And for the last four years, we’ve been doing our best to help you find the place in Pennsylvania that fits your needs. Whether you’re looking for good schools — like in Swarthmore — or a great economy — like the 0.9% unemployment rate in Clarks Summit, we have you covered.
And while all of Pennsylvania is a pretty great, there are definitely places that are a tick above the rest.
So “Youse” and “Yinz” can put aside the cross state rivalry for a minute, pick up a Yuengling, and cozy up with some scrapple as we break down the best places to live in Pennsylvania for the 170 cities in PA larger than 5,000 people.
What’s the best place to live in Pennsylvania? According to data from the Census and FBI UCR, the best place to live in Pennsylvania for 2021 is Swarthmore for the second year a row. It’s kind of like they set up a tent at the top of this ranking wouldn’t ya say.
We weren’t surprised to see Swarthmore here after the results last year, but it is funny with all the hype around the two biggest cities that the best place to live is actually a suburb of Harrisburg. Now that you have an understanding of the best places to live in Pennsylvania, let’s take a drive down our methodology and take a deep dive into the ten best. Just remember to stop at WaWa before you hop in the car with us.
For more Pennsylvania reading, check out:
- Best Counties To Live In Pennsylvania
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The 10 Best Places To Live In Pennsylvania For 2021
We’re heading to the greater Philadelphia area to arrive at the best place to live in Pennsylvania, Swarthmore. As the home of the prestigious Swarthmore College, it’s unsurprising that Swarthmore’s median age is 32, the second youngest you’ll see on this list. Evidently, having a world-class educational institution has helped instill a love of learning in Swarthmore, because a whopping 45%+ of residents here have a master’s degree or higher.
All those degrees really pay off for the local populace, because at $107,778/year, Swarthmore has the 4th best-paid residents in PA. Which is kind of necessary, seeing as homes in Swarthmore are the 2nd priciest in the state. The good news is that nobody in Swarthmore gets left out of the economic success, because at 5.6%, it has the 17th lowest poverty level in Pennsylvania.
Welcome to Collegeville, a borough of 5,152 people and our 2nd best place to live in Pennsylvania. As the name might imply, Collegeville is hip, young place to call home. With a median age of just 22, it’s the youngest spot on this list by a wide margin. These kids really know how to manage a town, though, because Collegeville enjoys a poverty rate of just 1.3%, the 2nd lowest in Pennsylvania. Collegeville also has the 5th lowest rate of violent crime in the state and a total crime rate about 70% below the national average.
In terms of economics, Collegeville is one of the richest places in PA, with a median household income of $112,500/year, the 3rd highest in the state. Luckily, those tax dollars find their way to the right places, because GreatSchools gave Collegeville’s public education system an 8/10 average.
Ridley Park is a Philadelphia suburb of 7,048. Homes in Ridley Park go for around $202,000 and residents earn a median household income of $83,802/year. That combination of stats actually gives Ridley Park the second lowest cost of living you’ll see on this list. And with sub-4% unemployment, all of Ridley Park’s residents can enjoy this affordable borough.
Being so close to the City of Brotherly Love allows for easy access to iconic photo spots. Like pulling a Rocky Balboa and jogging up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Just be sure to wait until after the run before diving into a Philly cheesesteak, or you might regret it.
We begin our tour of the best places to call home in Pennsylvania with Camp Hill, a small city located just across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg. Although homes are slightly pricey at a median cost of $212,600, Camp Hill residents pull in the 7th highest salaries in the state, with a median household income of $87,008/year. That gives Camp Hill the overall lowest cost of living of any of the cities we’ll be covering here.
On top of being affordable, Camp Hill is also extremely safe. In fact, Camp Hill has the 28th lowest rate of violent crime in the state, and a total crime rate about 70% below the national average. Add to that SnackAbility scores of 8.5/10 for both housing and jobs, and you’ve got a recipe for a stellar place to call home.
In addition to the statistical advantages Camp Hill enjoys, it’s also just a great location. In ten minutes, you can find yourself wandering down the riverfront on your way to the grand Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex. While you’re there, stop at the State Museum to put a perfect cap on your day out.
Let’s stick around the Philly suburbs for our 5th best city in Pennsylvania, Conshohocken. As the 16th most densely populated place in the state, you can rest assured that you won’t be left out of the action in Conshohocken. And while Conshohocken ranks as one of the most expensive places in Pennsylvania, don’t let that put you off. Because while homes are pricey, Conshohocken residents also enjoy the 6th highest median household income in Pennsylvania, at $87,241/year.
Conshohocken also has an unemployment rate of 3.3%, the 22nd lowest in the state. On top of that, Conshohocken has the 9th highest rate of residents with health insurance statewide, with 97.8% of people having some form of coverage.
Being so close to Philly, folks in Conshohocken never have to think too hard where to bring visitors. In twenty minutes, you can be taking a gander at the Liberty Bell at Independence National Historical Park.
Perkasie, Pennsylvania, has a rich history for such a small town (population: 8,550). It housed a factory that, for 30 years, manufactured baseballs for the MLB. The community has also suffered two massive fires, one in 1890 and one almost 100 years later in 1988. Still, with all these ups and downs, Perkasie remains the number 6 spot in Pennsylvania to put down roots.
This commuter support helps bolster the local economy. The median income stands at $77,420 and the median home value comes in at $268,100. The unemployment rate in the area is 2.9%. Crime in Perkasie is low, about a third below the national average. The cost of living is slightly elevated, though, but still within reason. It’s only about 10% above the U.S. standard.
Perkasie might offer amazing urban access, with relatively short rides to two of the East Coast’s major metropolitan area. However, the town also has some rural appeal as well. You can take a quick trip to Nockamixon State Park.
Bellefonte is a borough of 6,282 located just northeast of State College. We already named Bellefonte one of the safest places in Pennsylvania, so you know crime won’t be a concern here. And with the unemployment rate and poverty level at 3.5% and 7.1% respectively, the state of Bellfonte’s local economy should be equally comforting.
In addition to the essentials, Bellefonte has a number of other perks that make it a great place to live. For example, at 17 minutes, Bellefonte residents have the 13th shortest commute in the state and the shortest you’ll see on this list. And having the 75th highest rate of residents with health insurance in the state means that unfortunate surprises won’t ruin you economically here.
Another awesome thing about living in Bellefonte that won’t show up on the stat sheet is its proximity to Penn State. Catching a Nittany Lions game at Beaver State or stopping to smell the roses at the Arboretum at Penn State are just a couple of attendant advantages of having this prestigious campus right in your backyard.
Finishing off our list of best places to call home in Pennsylvania is Wyomissing, a suburb of Reading. Wyomissing’s proximity to a major city helps cut down on commute times, and residents are lucky to have the second shortest commute on this list at just 18 minutes. And with unemployment and poverty rates at 4.3% and 6.1%, plenty of residents are making that commute every day.
Wyomissing residents enjoy the 10th highest household income in the state at about $81,178/year. And with high incomes comes solid health insurance, because 98.5% of residents here are covered, the 4th highest rate in Pennsylvania.
If you’re new in town and trying to get the lay of the land, the Pagoda atop Mt. Penn in Reading offers awesome vistas of the surrounding region.
Economy, Pennsylvania, lives up to its name. Its 9,182 residents enjoy high incomes and a competitive housing market. That, and its prime location near a major metropolitan center, make it one of the best places to live in the state.
Built near the Ohio River in the western part of the state, Economy sits just outside of Pittsburgh. (A half-hour drive will take you to the city center.) This proximity to one of the region’s main urban centers bolsters the local economy. The median income comes in at $81,938, the 9th highest mark in the state.
Homes in the region represent an excellent investment. The median home value sits at $183,100. The cost of living holds near the national average.
Economy provides other benefits as well. The crime rate sits about 60% below the U.S. norm. The community has significant amenities as well, from Economy Park to multiple local golf courses, including the Allegheny Country Club.
Located just north of the city of Lancaster, Lititz ranks as the 10th best place to live in Pennsylvania. The poverty level in Lititz is 4.9%, about three times lower than the statewide average. Lititz also has the 80th lowest rate of crime in Pennsylvania, so you don’t need to worry about Amazon porch pirates here. Another (possible) perk about life in Lititz is the ladies, because fully 55.7% of the population is female in Lilitz.
It’s no wonder Lititz describes itself as “the coolest small town in America” — it doesn’t matter if you want to get in touch with your wild side at the Wolf Sanctuary of PA or just relax and feed some ducks at Springs Park, because Lititz has something for everyone.
Mapping The Best And Worst Places To Live in Pennsylvania
The Pressing Question: Size
Before we even started to collect data, we had to answer a tough question: Is it fair to pit Harrisburg with a population of 49,209 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 5,000
- Towns — Populations between 1,000 and 5,000
- Small Towns — Populations below 1,000
This left us with 170 cities, 690 towns, and 733 small towns.
We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best cities to live in Pennsylvania have more of everything and therefore you need to have over 5,000 people to truly be ‘the best’.
You can see those two top tens at the bottom of the post.
How We Calculated The Best Cities To Live In Pennsylvania
Now that we had our set of cities, it was time to rank them.
We ranked each place in Pennsylvania across a number of criteria from one to 170, 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 Pennsylvania”.
The criteria we looked at were:
- Median Home Values
- Median Income
- Population Density (Higher better)
- Unemployment Rate
- Commute Time
- Education Levels
- Health Insurance Coverage
- Poverty rates
After the dust settled, what was the best place to live in Pennsylvania? That would be Swarthmore.
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 Pennsylvania.
Otherwise, buckle up for a ride down good living lane with Swarthmore at the end of the cul-de-sac.
Wrapping Up The Best Places When It Comes To Living In Pennsylvania
If you’re looking at areas in Pennsylvania with the best economic situations, where there’s lower than average crime, and a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
Swarthmore made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for the best place to live in Pennsylvania for 2021.
Best Towns To Live In Pennsylvania
- Seven Fields (Pop. 2,865)
- Fox Chase (Pop. 1,280)
- Lincoln Park (Pop. 1,612)
- Colony Park (Pop. 1,459)
- Whitfield (Pop. 4,403)
- Lemont (Pop. 2,144)
- Chesterbrook (Pop. 4,693)
- Ben Avon (Pop. 1,774)
- Clarks Green (Pop. 1,435)
- Narberth (Pop. 4,305)
Best Small Towns To Live In Pennsylvania
- Ben Avon Heights (Pop. 349)
- Pennwyn (Pop. 761)
- Mount Gretna (Pop. 240)
- Glen Osborne (Pop. 553)
- Rosslyn Farms (Pop. 465)
- Harleigh (Pop. 897)
- Waverly (Pop. 579)
- Spring Ridge (Pop. 902)
- Rennerdale (Pop. 849)
- Thornburg (Pop. 449)
If you’re curious enough, here are the worst places to live in Pennsylvania according to the data:
- McKees Rocks (Pop. 5,919)
- McKeesport (Pop. 19,225)
- Duquesne (Pop. 5,543)
For more Pennsylvania reading, check out:
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Where Are The Best Places To Live In Pennsylvania?