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By Samantha Sharf
September 14, 2021
Lake Lucy Ridge neighborhood in Chanhassen, Minnesota
Aerial view of the Lake Lucy Ridge neighborhood in Chanhassen, Minnesota
Ackerman + Gruber for Money

Every year since 1987, we’ve combined lots of data with old fashioned reporting to find 50 or so standout spots for our Best Places to Live project.

To create Money’s Best Places to Live ranking for 2021-2022, we considered cities and towns with populations ranging from 25,000 up to 500,000. This range allowed us to surface places large enough to have amenities like grocery stores and a nearby hospital, but kept the focus on somewhat lesser known spots around the United States. The largest place on our list this year has over 457,476 residents and the smallest has 25,260.

We also removed places where:

  • the crime risk is more than 1.5x the national average
  • the median income level is lower than its state’s median
  • the population is declining
  • there is effectively no ethnic diversity

This yielded a candidate list of about 1,300 locations.

To whittle that down to the 50 best, we looked at nearly 100 different metrics (for a total of over 300,000 unique data points) organized into nine categories:

  • Cost of Living
  • Economic opportunity
  • Diversity
  • Education
  • Fun (aka amenities)
  • Health & safety
  • Housing market
  • Income & personal finances
  • Quality of life

To meet our goal of highlighting places people can actually afford to live, we put extra weight on cost of living, economic opportunity and housing affordability. To keep the list interesting, we limited winners to three per state and one per county. Last year’s top five places were also disqualified.

“We” includes: two editors, six writers and our research partner Witlytic who helped compile the data for the list and crunch the numbers. This project also would not have been possible without Money's development, product and art teams.

Sources

Thank you to our many data providers, including:

WitLytic, STI: PopStats, ATTOMdata, Datafiniti, SchoolDigger, Council for Community and Economic Research, The Trust for Public Land, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Data.gov, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Aviation Administration, Google Places API, POIfactory.com, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Center for Education Statistics, Department of Energy, American Medical Association, National Center for Health Statistics, County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Internal Revenue Service, Insure.com, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Bankrate, Kiplingers, US Department of Agriculture, Realtor.com, BroadBandNow, Department of Transportation, American Alliance of Museums