From the beaches of Florida to the mountains of Washington, there are beautiful cities and sprawling towns from coast to coast, which makes ranking the best places to live in the United States so controversial. Every year, survey experts at the U.S. News & World Report evaluate the 125 places in America with the highest populations and release a list of the spots that outshine all the rest.
The factors that go into this official ranking include job prospects, quality of life, and affordability, one of the most important categories in their survey. Other data points including crime rates, median household incomes, and the quality of healthcare were matched up with polls distributed in the area, and the survery also measured how many people move to—and out of—these cities every year. Plus, experts asked 2,500 Americans where they would prefer to live in order to create a "desirability index," too.
If you're hoping to visit the city that took the top spot in 2019, you'll have to head to the lone star state: Austin, Texas, earned bragging rights as the best place to live in America this year. The team at U.S. News & World Report noted that the amount of Texans and out-of-staters moving to the capital has decreased, but it consistently ranked high on the desirability index. Towns in Colorado took spots two and three—Denver and Colorado Springs earned high scores across the board. In the South, Fayetteville, Arkansas, earned the fourth spot, outshining many of its neighbors, and Iowa's Midwestern hub Des Moines claimed the fifth spot on the list.
If you look at the rest of the top 25 cities, you'll notice that few Northeastern cities made the list. Washington, D.C., managed to place at a rank of 19 nationally, and Portland, Maine, experienced a noticeable surge in the poll by breaking into the top 25. Every other location falls within the South, Midwest, or Pacific Northwest, which has grown considerably in the last few years, according to experts. "Our Northeastern cities, which are epicenters of higher education and economic development, are not growing nearly as much as places in Florida, California and Texas," Devon Thorsby, real estate editor for U.S. News & World Report, said in the press release. "Plus, they are expensive to live in. Top-ranked places have the characteristics people are looking for, including steady job growth, affordability and a high quality of life."
San Francisco gained the most traction on the list, moving up to number seven after ranking 20th on last year's list. Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington also placed within the top ten. Florida also has a few cities that ranked high on the list, including Sarasota, which had the highest increase in desirability, affordability, quality of life, and job growth prospects.
There are many other standouts in particular categories if you're looking to relocate; in Alabama, Huntsville has earned the title of most affordable housing, while those in San Jose, California earned the highest paychecks. You can see the full list here, including some of the worst performers, like New York City, which snagged the honor of having the "worst" commute. Now, that's not too surprising, is it? The beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all.