How Money Chose the Best Places to Live in 2022

For Money's latest Best Places to Live list, we did things differently in an effort to present a more inclusive set of cities that are both interesting and inviting.
By Adam Hardy

Throughout the months-long process of creating our 2022 list, we kept returning to the question, "best places to live for whom?"" To offer a more equitable answer, we took a hard look at the cities that we have featured in previous years. They're often quaint, affordable — and unintentionally yet overwhelmingly white. We wanted to create a more welcoming list for a broader group of people this year, so we restructured our data gathering and ranking processes to reflect that priority.

Chief among those changes included introducing new data related to national heritage, languages spoken at home and religious diversity — in addition to the metrics we already gather on racial diversity. We also weighted these factors highly. While seeking places that are diverse in this more traditional sense of the word, we also prioritized places that gave us more regional diversity and strove to include cities of all sizes by lifting the population limit that we often relied on in previous years. This opened up a new tier of larger (and often more diverse) candidates.

With these goals in mind, we first gathered data on places that:

  • Had a population of at least 20,000 people — and no population maximum
  • Had a population that was at least 85% as racially diverse as the state
  • Had a median household income of at least 85% of the state median

These hard filters generated a batch of 1,370 places to rank. We then gathered approximately 350 pieces of data on each place, totaling more than 480,000 data points.

We grouped the data into nine primary ranking factors:

  • Cost of living: This factor looks at how expensive it is to live in a certain community — housing affordability relative to local income as well as the costs of transportation, health care, child care, insurance and more.
  • Diversity: This factor looks at the population with a heavy focus on how well various races are represented and integrated into the community. It also tracks religious diversity, age, heritage and languages spoken at home. We gave preference toward places with populations that were less than 80% white.
  • Economic opportunity: This factor includes employment data, job growth projections, and indices that track if residents are in poverty and if they are employed in a healthy mix of different industries.
  • Education: This factor weighs K-12 test scores, high school graduation rates, the percentage of the population with a four-year degree, whether the area is close to or includes one of our Best Colleges and more.
  • Fun and amenities: This factor uses location data to determine if a city offers interesting things for residents to do, tracking restaurants, gyms, farmers markets, museums, parks as well as infrastructure like airports, fire stations and police departments.
  • Health and safety: This factor includes violent crime indices, health expectancy, access to clinics and hospitals as well as households that report serious health problems.
  • Housing market: This factor looks at home sales prices, listing prices, rents, how long for-sale homes stay on the market and housing availability — all with an eye on affordability.
  • Income and personal finance: This factor accounts for household income, taxes and how well various income groups are mixed within an area.
  • Quality of life: This factor includes data about commute times, walkability, access to green space, weather and environmental catastrophe risk of the area.

After scoring the data, we were left with a short list of about 125. From there, our team of writers and editors vetted the top contenders, flagging pros and cons of each place as well as any major deal-breakers that data and numbers wouldn’t surface. During this stage, we also ensured that various Census regions and divisions were represented.

The results, we hope, provide an option or two for everyone, no matter their background or stage of life.

Our data, research and editorial team includes five editors, eight writers and our long-time data partner Witlytic. This project would not have been possible without the help from Money's art, development, production and sales teams.


A special thank you to our many data providers, including:

American Alliance of Museums, American Medical Association, ATTOM Data Solutions, Bureau of Labor Statistics,, Census Bureau, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Council for Community and Economic Research, County Health Rankings, Datafiniti, Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Environment Protection Agency, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy,, Internal Revenue Service, Kaiser Family Foundation, Moody's Analytics, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Parkserve,, SchoolDigger, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, STI: Popstats, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Witlytic