America’s best places to live in 2020

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Austin, Texas, takes the top spot on Bankrate’s list of the 10 best places to live in the U.S. in 2020.

Overall, our list of best places spans the nation, encompassing cities in the West, East, Midwest and South. But Southern cities make up half the list, boasting traits like high affordability, desirable culture and solid educational attainment.

Austin is tops because it’s an all-around thriving city, ranking high in six key areas of measurement.

If you’re looking for a new city to call home, check out this list of the top 10 top places to live in the U.S. in 2020.

What to consider in a place to live

There’s a lot of individual preference involved when it comes to deciding on the best place to live. Factors like family proximity, climate and community size can all influence your decision.

However, there are some common themes that should be taken into consideration when deciding on a new place to live.

To assemble our list of the best places to live, we looked at six different factors in 50 of the most populous U.S. cities. Keep in mind there are many smaller communities around these larger cities that may be equally desirable places.

Affordability: First and foremost, we looked at affordability, including housing expenses and each city’s cost of living compared with its average salary per worker. The definition of affordable differs by household, but it’s important to weigh your income against how much it will cost you to live in a given city.

Culture: We also looked at culture (the well-being of a city and its per-capita data on restaurants, drinking establishments and arts and recreation businesses), job market (average commute times and the unemployment rate for 25-to-44-year-olds), safety (property and violent crime rates) and educational attainment (the percentage of college graduates in a city).

Net Migration: Finally, we looked at the net migration of each place. All of the cities on this list have positive net migration, meaning that they are among some of the fastest-growing cities in the nation.

Here are the top 10 best places to live in the U.S. in 2020:

1. Austin, Texas

  • Affordability: 6 out of 10
  • Culture: 7 out of 10
  • Safety: 8 out of 10
  • Job market: 8 out of 10
  • Education: 9 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Education/culture

Biggest limitation: Affordability

Austin is booming in nearly every sense of the word. Culturally, it has a bustling music scene, and it plays host to major festivals such as South by Southwest and Austin City Limits. The city is quickly growing in population, but it still manages to maintain a relatively low cost of living and a solid job market. It’s also one of the most educated cities in the country, likely due to The University of Texas at Austin’s student body enrollment of 51,000. Check out the latest mortgage rates in Texas.

2. Portland, Oregon

  • Affordability: 7 out of 10
  • Culture: 9 out of 10
  • Safety: 7 out of 10
  • Job market: 5 out of 10
  • Education: 9 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Culture/education

Biggest limitation: Job market

Culturally, Portland is at the top of the game. The West Coast city offers a walkable downtown with shops, restaurants, events and galleries, but it also has an NBA team and an MLS soccer team. Yet culture isn’t the only thing the city has going for it. It offers a well-rounded economy with better-than-average affordability and one of the highest education rates in the U.S. Major employers in the area include Intel, Nike and Boeing. Check out the latest mortgage rates in Oregon.

3. Minneapolis, Minnesota

  • Affordability: 8 out of 10
  • Culture: 4 out of 10
  • Safety: 8 out of 10
  • Job market: 9 out of 10
  • Education: 9 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Job market

Biggest limitation: Culture

Minneapolis is a good place for job seekers. In addition to being affordable, there’s a long list of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in and around the city, including UnitedHealth Group, Target, Best Buy, CHS and 3M. Home to several colleges and universities, the Minneapolis population scores high on educational attainment as well. Plus, despite the colder weather, residents still get out to enjoy music, art, outdoor recreation, as well as pro baseball and footballCheck out the latest mortgage rates in Minnesota.

4. Raleigh, North Carolina

  • Affordability: 8 out of 10
  • Culture: 3 out of 10
  • Safety: 9 out of 10
  • Job market: 8 out of 10
  • Education: 9 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Safety/education

Biggest limitation: Culture

Young and educated, Raleigh is one of the fastest-growing and most educated cities in the U.S. It’s also one of the safest places. Employers like Duke University, Walmart and Target drive the local economy. And don’t be put off by its lower ranking for culture. It has fewer restaurants, drinking establishments and arts and recreation businesses per capita than the other cities on our list, but there’s still a strong community with a microbrewing and dining scene. Check out the latest mortgage rates in North Carolina.

5. Cincinnati, Ohio

  • Affordability: 9 out of 10
  • Culture: 6 out of 10
  • Safety: 9 out of 10
  • Job market: 6 out of 10
  • Education: 7 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Affordability/safety

Biggest limitation: Culture

Affordability and safety are a good combination, and Cincinnati ranks high on both measures. It’s one of the largest metros in the U.S., but it offers relatively low housing costs, combined with low property and violent crime rates. Major companies like Kroger, Procter & Gamble and Macy’s attract talent. And museums, restaurants and professional sports offer entertainment for locals. Check out the latest mortgage rates in Ohio.

6. Denver, Colorado

  • Affordability: 6 out of 10
  • Culture: 7 out of 10
  • Safety: 5 out of 10
  • Job market: 8 out of 10
  • Education: 9 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Job market/education

Biggest limitation: Safety

A low unemployment rate, short commute times and a slew of large employers give Denver’s job market an edge over other cities. Visitors can also expect a well-educated population. But culture helps make the Mile-High City one of the best places to live in 2020. The city sits at the base of the Rocky Mountains, offering day trips to an abundance of outdoor recreation. Residents of Denver also have access to nightlife, art, music and other attractions. Check out the latest mortgage rates in Colorado.

7. Nashville, Tennessee

  • Affordability: 6 out of 10
  • Culture: 6 out of 10
  • Safety: 5 out of 10
  • Job Market: 8 out of 10
  • Education: 8 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Job market/Education

Biggest limitation: Affordability

As you might expect, there’s a thriving music industry in Music City. But healthcare, education, automobile production, finance and insurance also make up a large portion of the prosperous job market. Nashville also claims a number of four-year colleges, including Vanderbilt University. Culturally, residents of the city enjoy a blossoming food scene, music venues and a number of museums and attractions. Though the cost of living is relatively affordable, housing prices have shot up in recent years. Check out the latest mortgage rates in Tennessee.

8. Louisville, Kentucky

  • Affordability: 8 out of 10
  • Culture: 5 out of 10
  • Safety: 5 out of 10
  • Job market: 5 out of 10
  • Education: 6 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Affordability

Biggest limitation: Job market

Louisville, which sits along the Ohio River, is one of the most affordable places in the U.S., boasting inexpensive housing and a low cost of living overall. It’s a well-educated town as well, with more than 22,000 students enrolled at the University of Louisville. Residents in the city have access to local restaurants serving food and bourbon made in Kentucky. The city is also the location of cultural events like the Kentucky Derby and Forecastle Music FestCheck out the latest mortgage rates in Kentucky.

9. Kansas City, Missouri

  • Affordability: 8 out of 10
  • Culture: 3 out of 10
  • Safety: 4 out of 10
  • Job market: 9 out of 10
  • Education: 7 out of 10

Biggest advantage: Job market

Biggest limitation: Culture

This Midwest metropolitan city is attracting new residents with a lively job market and a low cost of living. Companies including Amazon, Ford, Garmin, General Motors and HCA have offices here. Though it ranks lower for restaurants and drinking establishments per capita, it doesn’t lack culture. The city offers a flourishing art scene, a number of museums, a symphony, a riverboat casino and plenty of places to eat and drink. And need we mention the city is home to the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Kansas City Chiefs?  Check out the latest mortgage rates in Missouri.

10. New Orleans, Louisiana

  • Affordability: 4 out of 10
  • Culture: 9 out of 10
  • Safety: 3 out of 10
  • Job market: 3 out of 10
  • Education: 8 out of 10
  • Biggest advantage: Culture

    Biggest limitation: Job market/safety

    Phenomenal culture and a high rate of educational attainment peg New Orleans as one of the top places to live in the U.S. The city is going through a revival, offering residents and visitors a bustling music, food and bar scene. Despite it having a higher unemployment and crime rate than other large metros, it’s still seeing fast population growth. Job seekers can expect to find large employers like Harrah’s New Orleans Casino & Hotel, Ochsner Health System and Tulane Health System. While it ranks low for affordability, the overall cost of living in New Orleans is still lower than many of the cities on our broader list. Check out the latest mortgage rates in Louisiana.

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