Americans will move across the country for just about anything — be it for a job, to be closer to a loved one or just to get a little more sun. While the initial reason for a move to a new city will vary from person to person, the location’s job market, affordability and overall quality of life are a few of the characteristics to consider before the movers are called.
U.S. News Best Places to Live examines a variety of factors, from job market to quality of life, that ultimately determine which of the country’s largest metro areas would be more suitable for more people. Read on to explore the 20 best places to live.
#20 Portland, Oregon
Metro Population: 2,288,796 Median Home Sale Price: $297,200 Median Annual Salary: $50,710
This Oregon city known for its quirky residents and natural beauty is a highly sought-after destination, voted one of the most desirable cities in a U.S. News-commissioned Google Consumer Survey. While its population growth from net migration and job market are in the middle of the pack,Portland’s widely known reputation for being a friendly, laid back city earns it a top spot in our rankings.
#19 Charleston, South Carolina
Metro Population: 697,281 Median Home Sale Price: $209,450 Median Annual Salary: $42,770
Also voted a highly desirable place to live, Charleston is rich in history and real estate — with historical homes and municipal buildings dating back to the 18th century. While it’s less than a third of the size of the Portland area in population, Charleston’s metro region has seen a significant number of people moving there in recent years, with the population growing more than 6 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
#18 Omaha, Nebraska
Metro Population: 886,157 Median Home Sale Price: $139,000 Median Annual Salary: $43,330
Omaha has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the top 20, and with a short commute time, the area’s residents don’t spend much time in traffic. The Midwestern city has a low cost of living compared to its median annual salary, allowing people to keep a larger portion of their paychecks in their pockets.
#17 Houston, Texas
Metro Population: 6,204,141 Median Home Sale Price: $190,00 Median Annual Salary: $50,830
Houston ranks high in population growth from net migration — more than 300,000 people relocated to the Houston area between 2010 and 2014. With a healthy job market and decent cost of living compared to other metros of its size, Houston residents are some of the most satisfied with their lives in the country, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. #16 San Diego, California
Metro Population: 3,183,143 Median Home Sale Price: $477,500 Median Annual Salary: $53,020
Southern California sun and warm temperatures are enough to entice many people, as San Diego ranks among the most desired places to live in the country. San Diego also ranks highly for students’ college readiness compared to other ranked metro areas. But the hot location and great education do come at a cost — San Diegans spend nearly 40 percent of their paychecks on living expenses.
#15 Charlotte, North Carolina
Metro Population: 2,298,915 Median Home Sale Price: $184,600 Median Annual Salary: $48,290
The large number of people relocating to Charlotte and a relatively low cost of living compared to the area’s median annual salary put the Queen City in the top 20. Gallup’s Well-Being Index also reveals Charlotte’s residents are on the whole more satisfied with their lives than most other metro areas in the country. But Charlotte’s not the only North Carolina city to rank highly for residents’ well-being — another spot in the state is even higher on the Best Places to Live list.
#14 Sarasota, Florida
Metro Population: 722,784 Median Home Sale Price: $226,750 Median Annual Salary: $39,960
Sarasota’s sunshine and prime location for retirees makes it a highly desired place to live, according to a U.S. News-commissioned Google Consumer Survey of people across the country. And people are acting on it. Sarasota has one of the highest rates of population growth from net migration out of all the metro areas in the top 20. The tourism industry doesn’t help the cost of living, though, with residents spending more than 38 percent of the median annual income on living expenses.
#13 Grand Rapids, Michigan
Metro Population: 1,007,329 Median Home Sale Price: $149,475 Median Annual Salary: $41,350
This Michigan city avoids the traffic of larger cities, boasting a short average commute time. Other perks include a low crime rate and high college readiness scores among schoolchildren. Located a bit off the beaten path, roughly halfway between Chicago and Detroit, Grand Rapids’ low cost of living means residents are only spending about 28 percent of the median annual income on necessary expenses.
#12 Minneapolis, Minnesota
Metro Population: 3,424,786 Median Home Sale Price: $218,250 Median Annual Salary: $52,080
Minneapolis scores well for its job market, being home to several Fortune 500 companies, including Target Corp. It’s also home to the Skyway, an indoor walkway connecting commercial buildings throughout the downtown area, allowing people to travel throughout the city without having to go outside during the cold winter months. In addition to high employment rates, the cost of living compared to income is low. The area’s low rates of property and violent crime help to push it further up the list.
#11 Des Moines, Iowa
Metro Population: 590,741 Median Home Sale Price: $169,550 Median Annual Salary: $46,600
With a low cost of living, Des Moines ranks the second highest for value in the country, bested only by the No. 3 overall city on our list of Best Places to Live. The Iowa capital has had solid population growth through net migration in recent years, bolstered by an unemployment rate below 4 percent, a low crime rate and short commute time.
Metro Population: 1,898,457 Median Home Sale Price: $777,600 Median Annual Salary: $75,770
The capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose reigns supreme for its job market and median annual salary. The area also scores highly for its schools, with the fourth highest college readiness scores of the 100 metro regions ranked. But those quality schools come at a hefty price — San Jose is one of the most expensive places to live in the country. Even with higher average salaries, the cost of living means residents are spending a larger portion of their paycheck and saving less.
#9 San Francisco
Metro Population: 4,466,251 Median Home Sale Price: $646,250 Median Annual Salary: $69,350
With a healthy job market and high salaries, San Francisco’s connection to the tech industry makes it a sought-after destination for startups andnew employees alike, ranking seventh for desirability out of the 100 metro areas considered. The schools in the metro region are also some of the best ranked in the country, putting San Francisco in the fourth slot for college readiness. However, San Francisco beats out San Jose for higher cost of living, and residents have less disposable income.
#8 Washington, D.C.
Metro Population: 5,863,608 Median Home Sale Price: $375,700 Median Annual Salary: $65,890
The nation’s capital ranks third for its job market, following only San Jose and San Francisco, and has the third highest median annual salary. TheWashington area’s schools have a high average college readiness score as well, though the region is also one of the costliest in the country to live in, and it has the second worst commute of the 100 ranked metro areas.
#7 Seattle, Washington
Metro Population: 3,557,037 Median Home Sale Price: $362,468 Median Annual Salary: $59,130
Home to business giants Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft, it’s no question Seattle is one of the highest-ranking metro areas for its job market. Long a destination for those in the tech industry, Seattle was voted one of the top 10 most desirable cities. Seattle’s proximity to Puget Sound and mountains to the east make it a top spot to visit for tourists throughout the year.
#6 Boise, Idaho
Metro Population: 639,616 Median Home Sale Price: $232,500 Median Annual Salary: $41,550
Idaho’s most populous city is also the least dangerous of the 100 ranked metro areas, with the lowest combined violent and property crime rates, per the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting. While it’s smaller than most cities in the top 20, Boise has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the top 10 and is one of the most affordable as well.
#5 Colorado Springs, Colorado
Metro Population: 669,070 Median Home Sale Price: $221,725 Median Annual Salary: $46,520
Highly desired by people surveyed across the country — beat out only by Honolulu — Colorado Springs isn’t the only city in the Centennial State to make it into the top five. Though it has the slowest population growth from net migration of all the 10 highest ranking metro areas, Colorado Springs is one of the most affordable for residents, allowing the median annual salary to go further than other cities.
#4 Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
Metro Population: 1,714,629 Median Home Sale Price: $215,730 Median Annual Salary: $50,310
Thanks to the likes of Duke University’s nationally and regionally ranked health system, the Raleigh-Durham metro area has exceptional health care quality and availability. In addition to Duke University, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and more than a dozen other colleges in the area make it a hub for academics and college-age residents, helping earn the area its title as the Research Triangle. Raleigh-Durham also has the second highest population growth from net migration of those cities in the top 10.
#3 Fayetteville, Arkansas
Metro Population: 483,396 Median Home Sale Price: $177,200 Median Annual Salary: $42,410
Fayetteville beat out every other city on the list in value — meaning it’s the most affordable for residents compared to the average income.Fayetteville edges out the busier cities in the top 20 with a short average commute time to work, a big factor in quality of life for people surveyed. Home to the University of Arkansas and the Wal-Mart headquarters, Fayetteville is the fastest-growing city in Arkansas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
#2 Austin, Texas
Metro Population: 1,835,016 Median Home Sale Price: $240,000 Median Annual Salary: $48,150
The capital of Texas has seen major growth in recent years, with a 9 percent population growth rate from migration between 2010 and 2014. With an increasing level of technology startups and a growing job market, the host of the annual SXSW festival is seeing an influx of younger generations, attracted by the common slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.”Austin came in as a very close second to the No. 1 spot on U.S. News Best Places to Live, coming in less than one-tenth of a point behind the top city.
#1 Denver, Colorado
Metro Population: 2,651,392 Median Home Sale Price: $301,300 Median Annual Salary: $53,060
The Mile High City is a burgeoning tech hub and a popular destination for millennials looking to start their careers. Voted the fourth most desirable city in a survey of people from across the country, Denver has one of the healthiest job markets in the country and has an above-average median annual salary, which goes further than in more expensive cities like Austin, Raleigh-Durham or Seattle.