Call them a small town, call them a big city, but America’s medium-sized communities may just be the perfect solution for those fed up with the stress, crowds, and high prices of the nation’s most famous urban centers.
For those looking for change but don’t want to move to a slow, rural backwater, SmartAsset’s personal finance experts have collected data from 275 humble towns across the United States to see which are the true hidden gems.
Their ranking was based on nine criteria, including the concentrations of bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 County Business Patterns Survey.
But practical considerations, such as the commute to work, the local unemployment rate and access to health care, also played a role.
Many contenders in the top 10 ranked first in Washington State and the Midwest, including Redmond, WA, with seven high-quality, affordable homes that accounted for less than 18 percent of their local median income.
Whether you want to move or just want to see where your place of residence stands, here’s what the data shows.
Redmond topped the list of most livable small town in America. Housing costs, based on local median income, were below 90 percent of the 275 cities evaluated, driven by a strong local economy backed by major corporations, such as Microsoft, Boeing, and Amazon
Patrick Villanova of SmartAsset rated each city’s quality of life along those nine metricsincluding average commute time, local unemployment rate, and average housing costs.
Some places performed exceptionally poorly on certain criteria, dropping them out of the running.
Many otherwise pleasant suburbs surround Washington DC and Los Angeles, for example, with some of the worst travel times in America: Apple Valley, Lake Elsinore, and Chino, CA; as well as Waldorf, MD and Dale City, VA.
Oddly enough, no city in the American South has cracked the top 10, with the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta coming highest as the 13th most livable small city. In addition to the amenities, Alpharetta offers housing costs of just 17.8 percent of the local median income
So if you’re looking to relocate and could see yourself in the Midwest or Pacific Northwest, you could do a lot worse than these top options.
1. Redmond, WA
Redmond topped the list of most livable small town in America. Housing costs, based on local median income, were below 90 percent of the 275 cities evaluated (17.77 percent), driven by a strong local economy backed by major corporations such as Microsoft, Boeing and Amazon.
The city also ranks 24th in bar concentration, promising an active nightlife in this Seattle suburb, home to some 76,000 people.
But Redmond also scored well on more basic amenities, as the vast majority of residents have health insurance (98.07 percent).
2. Sammamish, WA
Another Seattle suburb, Sammamish, located about 20 miles to the east, also promised low housing costs and a strong economy.
Only 2.5 percent of residents living there reported living below the poverty line, and a similar number without health insurance, 2.52 percent, some of the lowest numbers in the country. And, as in Redmond, home prices were a winning fraction of the local median income, just 17.12 percent.
Another Seattle suburb, Sammamish ranks second, thanks to low housing costs and a strong economy. Only 2.5 percent of residents reported living below the poverty line, and a similar number without health insurance, 2.52 percent, some of the lowest numbers in the country
A northwestern suburb of Detroit, Novi boasts the third-lowest unemployment rate among small-town surveys, at just 1.6 percent. Perhaps that’s because Novi is home to one of the state’s largest malls, Twelve Oaks Mall, which has anchored local commerce since 1977.
Average housing costs in this small Michigan city of just under 67,000 people are just 16.66 percent of the median income, making it the eighth lowest of all 275 cities SmartAsset studied.
A short, 11-mile commute from Boston, Newton’s citizenship is almost all accounted for in terms of health insurance with 98.95 percent of all residents reportedly covered, third best in this ranking.
Newton was also found to have the ninth lowest percentage of the local population struggling below the poverty line, at about 3.4 percent.
Between these, low housing costs (17.34 percent of median household income), well-regarded light rail and commuter rail, this hamlet, founded in 1630, remains a cozy and historic home for many.
5. Arlington Heights, IL
Arlington Heights, a Chicago suburb with a high density of bars, restaurants, healthcare facilities and other amenities, has also been home to the city’s Metropolis Performing Arts Center since 2000.
The small town’s sprawling bar scene (ranked 3rd) and abundance of dining and entertainment options (15th for both) brings a lot of extra money to spend it on: Arlington Heights has a low unemployment rate of 3.4 percent and housing costs of about 17.69 percent of the median income.
6. Palo Alto, CA
Home to Stanford University and numerous famous and more obscure start-ups, Palo Alto had the highest ranking of locals with health insurance, at over 99 percent.
Home to more than 66,000 people, the city of Silicon Valley promised an admirably low unemployment rate of 2.9 percent, and was above average for both dining options (ranked 40th) and healthcare facilities (45th).
More cities in Washington State and the Midwest rounded out the Top 10, with Kirkland, WA ranked 7th, followed by (in order) Farmington Hills, MI; Maple Grove, MN; and tied two cities for the 10th spot, Troy, MI and a rare southwestern option, Queen Creek, Arizona.