What’s the best place to live? That depends on you, of course. Bankrate crunched the numbers in multiple categories, including affordability, job markets and well-being, to determine the best places to live all across the country. If you’re thinking about relocating, or even just want to see how your hometown stacks up, this is the place to start. We’ve done the research so you don’t have to — here’s how we did it.

Categories and weighting

We used five primary categories to determine our Best Places to Live lists. Each one represents a major factor in what makes a particular place a great place to call home, including financial, employment, lifestyle and cultural considerations. Here are the five categories, along with what percentage of the overall weighting they represent:

  • Well-being: 30%
  • Job market: 25%
  • Affordability: 20%
  • Net migration: 15%
  • Diversity: 10%

Data sources, metrics and definitions

Here’s a breakdown of what each category includes, where we sourced the data from, and how we weighted each piece of it to come up with our list.


To determine well-being in each city, we used data from the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index. Sharecare’s research is based on millions of surveys in communities across America measuring factors ranging from physical and emotional health to financial security, community pride, access to health care, food resources and more. Find more information below:

  • Source: Sharecare, Community Well-Being Index (CWBI)
  • What it means: The index measures the overall well-being in an area, with 100 being a perfect score
  • Location specificity: metro area
  • Update cadence: annually
  • Data last updated: 2021

Job market

We determined an area’s job market by analyzing two sets of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a goal of establishing how good, or bad, the area is to secure employment in. One dataset is for the local unemployment rate, and the other is for the area’s total number of employees. Find more information below:

Unemployment rate

  • Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics
  • What it means: The percentage of area residents who are unemployed
  • Location specificity: metro area
  • Update cadence: monthly
  • Data last updated: May 2023

Total employees year-over-year


Three sets of data went into our determination of an area’s overall affordability: cost of living, average income and median home-sale price. Find more information below:

Cost of living

  • Source: The Council for Community and Economic Research, Cost of Living Index
  • What it means: The index measures the overall cost of living in an area, with a score of 100 being the national average. Places on our list are indexed against this average
  • Location specificity: varies between city and metro area; if both exist we use the city
  • Update cadence: quarterly
  • Data last updated: Q4 2022

Average income

Median home-sale price

  • Source: Redfin Data Center, Monthly Housing Market Data
  • What it means: Median home-sale price in an area
  • Location specificity: city
  • Update cadence: monthly
  • Data last updated: May 2023

Net migration

This metric measures population changes in an area: How many new residents are moving in, and how many previous residents are moving out. To determine it, we used data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Find more information below:


Our final category is diversity, which contributes to the cultural richness of an area. We gauged an area’s diversity using U.S. Census Bureau data. Find more information below:

  • Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2020 Census Redistricting Data
  • What it means: A measure of a population’s racial diversity based on 7 race groups: White, Black/African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, Other race groups, and population of 2+ races of the aforementioned. A score of 100 would indicate perfectly equal representation, with each group making up approximately 14.3% of the population.
  • Location specificity: metro area
  • Update cadence: every decade
  • Data last updated: 2020 Census

The formula we used to score each city

The cities on our list were each assigned a “weighted sum score” based on the data described above. The score is then compared to other cities to determine rankings within a particular state. Here is the formula we used to come up with the weighted sum scores:

Best Places to Live Formula
Weighted sum score = (Well-being * 0.30) + (Unemployment rate * -0.20) + (Total employees year-over-year * 0.05) + (Cost of living * -0.10) + (Average income * 0.05) + (Median home sale price * -0.05) + (Net migration * 0.15) + (Diversity * 0.10)

NOTE: Why are there negatives? For some factors, like unemployment rate, a lower score indicates a stronger performance than a higher one. In these cases, the metrics are given negative values.

Other ranking considerations

  • Includes cities with populations larger than 50,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places of 50,000 or More…” dataset.
  • Includes only the top-scored city from each Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which prevents one metro area from dominating the entire list.
  • Includes cities that had data for at least 5 of our 8 metrics (as defined in “Data sources, metrics and definitions” above).
  • In cases where a metric was missing, the city was assigned the state average for said metric. The most common missing data points were cost of living and median home price.