America’s 50 Best Cities to Live

Source: mulad / Flickr

30. Elk River, Minnesota
> Population: 23,743
> 5 yr. population change: +4.2%
> Median home value: $214,900
> Median household income: $83,585 (top 20%)

The poverty rate in Elk River, Minnesota, is 7.0%, less than half of the nationwide poverty rate of 15.1%. Elk River residents tend to earn high incomes, as most households in the area earn over $83,500 a year. Areas where residents earn higher incomes tend to report lower crime rates and Elk River is no exception. The city’s violent crime rate of 98 incidents for every 100,000 people, is well below the nationwide violent crime rate of 383 per 100,000.

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29. Spencer, Iowa
> Population: 11,172
> 5 yr. population change: -0.3%
> Median home value: $119,700
> Median household income: $45,559

Residents of Spencer, Iowa, benefit from some unique conditions that can greatly improve overall quality of life.

First, housing costs in Spencer, Iowa are well below the average costs across the country. The typical resident pays less than $700 a month on housing — compared to the median monthly housing cost of over $1,000 nationwide. Additionally, while long commutes and traffic congestion are a considerable source of stress in some parts of the country, they are not as much of a factor in Spencer. The average commute time in the northern Iowa city is less than 15 minutes, well below the 26 minute national average.

Source: Famartin / Wikimedia Commons

28. Falls Church, Virginia
> Population: 13,597
> 5 yr. population change: +14.8% (top 10%)
> Median home value: $724,000 (top 10%)
> Median household income: $115,244 (top 10%)

Located just outside Washington D.C. and Arlington, Virginia, Falls Church is an ideal place for many government workers and contractors to commute from. A fairly large share of city residents, 19.8%, commute to work via public transportation, as the town has a stop on the Washington metro area’s train service. In addition to cultural and entertainment attractions in D.C., Falls Church residents have some 500 restaurants for every 100,000 in their own city, more than double the national concentration.

Many of the people living in the city are affluent. The typical Falls Church household earns $115,244 a year, more than double the median household income nationwide. The city’s poverty rate of 2.7% is less than one-fifth of the nationwide poverty rate.

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27. Jamestown, North Dakota
> Population: 15,441
> 5 yr. population change: +1.0%
> Median home value: $120,100
> Median household income: $49,086

The typical household in Jamestown, North Dakota, earns $49,086 a year, slightly less than the median income nationwide of $55,322 a year. Still, because costs are relatively low in Jamestown, a dollar goes further in the city. Median monthly housing costs in the city are just $646, well below the corresponding national median of $1,012. Also, the job market in the city has been relatively strong in recent years. The city’s five-year average unemployment rate stands at 2.4%, less one-third of the comparable rate nationwide of 7.4%.

Jamestown is one of three North Dakota cities along the I 94 corridor to rank among the best places to live.

Source: ChrisBoswell / Getty Images

26. Pierre, South Dakota
> Population: 13,959
> 5 yr. population change: +2.2%
> Median home value: $164,900
> Median household income: $54,868

Most American homeowners spend more than $12,000 per year on housing. In Pierre, South Dakota, most spend less than $8,500 annually. Lower housing costs allow residents to use their money on food, clothes, or add it to their savings. Overall, the cost of living is lower in Pierre, as goods and services are 85% less expensive than they are on average nationwide.

Pierre, South Dakota’s capital, is home to many outdoor amenities largely thanks to its proximity to the Missouri River. Both Farm Island and LaFramboise Island, located in the river next to the city, offer residents the opportunity to take part in outdoor activities like swimming and hiking.

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