Finance The 50 best places to live in America for 2018

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U.S. News ranked the best places to live based on each city's quality of life, value, desirability, and job market.

There's a good mix of small towns and big cities. play

There's a good mix of small towns and big cities.

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  • U.S. News & World Report releases a list of the best places to live in America every year.
  • The best places to live 2018 ranking looked at five metrics: job market, value, quality of life, desirability, and net migration.
  • The best place to live in America is Austin, Texas, followed by Colorado Springs, Colorado.

When deciding where to put down roots, many factors are in the eye of the beholder, such as climate, politics, or proximity to extended family.

Other aspects are coveted by nearly everybody: affordable housing, access to well-paying jobs, a low cost of living, good schools, and quality healthcare. In its ranking of the best places to live in America for 2018, U.S. News & World Report gathered data on these crucial components for more than 100 US cities.

They then categorized the data into five indexes for each city — job market, value, quality of life, desirability, and net migration — to definitively rank these major metro areas. You can read U.S. News' full methodology here.

Scores for "value," a blend of annual household income and cost of living, and "quality of life," which accounts for crime, college readiness, commute, and other factors, are included below on a 10-point scale, as well as the city's population and average annual salary.

Austin, Texas, came out on top for the second consecutive year, while Colorado Springs, Colorado, jumped from No. 11 to take the No. 2 spot, edging out the state's capital, Denver, which rounded out the top three.

Nearly a dozen cities made the top-50 list for the first time since 2017, including Huntsville, Alabama; Asheville, North Carolina; and Anchorage, Alaska.

Keep reading to discover the 50 best places to live in America.

50. Lansing, Michigan

50. Lansing, Michigan play

50. Lansing, Michigan

(Henryk Sadura/Shutterstock)

Population: 470,348

Average annual salary: $47,550

Quality of life: 7.0

Value index: 7.1

Lansing, the diverse capital of Michigan, earns a spot on the list for its affordability, abundance of jobs, and local flavor. The area is home to everyone from career government workers to recent college graduates, and "you can go from a college campus to a waving wheat field in 10 minutes," one local expert said.

Residents love Lansing for its sports culture and fine arts scene, and although it gets chilly in the winters, the sunny summers more than make up for it.



49. Cincinnati, Ohio

49. Cincinnati, Ohio play

49. Cincinnati, Ohio

(photo.ua/Shutterstock)

Population: 2,146,410

Average annual salary: $48,130

Quality of life: 6.4

Value: 7.7

Cincinnati is a city that loves its food, sports, and culture. There's something for everyone in the Midwest's Queen City, from a strong job market to a busy event calendar filled with museums, baseball, and local heritage events.

Residents appreciate the city's affordability — housing there is cheaper than the national average, despite Cincinnati being one of the 30 biggest metro areas in the US.



48. Syracuse, New York

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48. Syracuse, New York

(debra millet/Shutterstock)

Population: 660,652

Average annual salary: $48,530

Quality of life: 7.1

Value: 7.6

It might get 124 inches-plus of snow per year, but don't let the blustery climate deter you: Syracuse boasts a low cost of living, easy access to both the city center and surrounding suburbs, and a host of cultural activities, including the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology and the Rosamond Gifford Zoo.

Home to Syracuse University, the town also rallies behind the Orange during basketball season, cheering the team to victory.



47. Atlanta, Georgia

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47. Atlanta, Georgia

(ESB Professional/Shutterstock)

Population: 5,612,777

Average annual salary: $50,720

Quality of life: 5.8

Value index: 7.0

An attractive blend of big city and big country, Atlanta is attracting transplants far and wide with its award-winning restaurants, culture centers, and flourishing job market. More than a dozen Fortune 500 companies call the city home, including Delta, The Home Depot, and The Coca-Cola Company, and it's an increasingly popular spot for film productions.

In addition, "The Chattahoochee River that traverses the metro area, and Stone Mountain, the world's largest chunk of exposed granite, located just northeast of the city proper, also offer a quick escape from any urban anxiety," says one local expert.



46. Hartford, Connecticut

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46. Hartford, Connecticut

(Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Population: 1,211,826

Average annual salary: $58,400

Quality of life: 7.0

Value index: 6.7

Located in the Connecticut River Valley, Hartford was once the home to notable historic figures, including Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Among the city's historic attractions, today it offers nearby entertainment venues, ski slopes, state parks.

The aerospace, healthcare, and financial services industries dominate the job market in Hartford, which is home to Aetna Inc., United Technologies Corp., and Hartford Hospital.



45. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

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45. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

(Wikimedia Commons)

Population: 561,447

Average annual salary: $47,220

Quality of life: 6.7

Value index: 7.4

Located on the banks of the Susquehanna River and the foothills of the Appalachian Trail, Harrisburg offers residents unlimited access to the outdoors. Many are employed by the state and federal government in Harrisburg, but there's also several large private-sector companies that are top employers, including Hershey's, Rite Aid, and D&H Distributing.



44. Jacksonville, Florida

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44. Jacksonville, Florida

(Shutterstock / Sean Pavone)

Population: 1,424,097

Average annual salary: $45,140

Quality of life: 6.7

Value index: 6.3

Jacksonville's beach-adjacent location makes it ideal for outdoor activities. In addition to spending lazy days in the sand, residents can also visit the area's prime golf courses or go hiking, camping, and kayaking in the nearby parks. Jacksonville also continues to grow, with burgeoning art and music scenes, as well as new business development, according to a local expert.



43. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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43. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

(Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Population: 654,589

Average annual salary: $44,100

Quality of life: 6.5

Value index: 7.1

The cost of living in Winston-Salem is a bargain. The city's average housing costs remain well below the national average — renters pay about $200 less per month for a one-bedroom apartment than their counterparts around the country.

Residents can also take advantage of the city's cultural offerings with visits to the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and the Reynolda House Museum of American Art.



42. Anchorage, Alaska

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Anchorage, Alaska

(Rocky Grimes / Shutterstock)

Population: 398,000

Average annual salary: $57,770

Quality of life: 6.4

Value index: 7.5

Alaska is often a tough sell for Americans from the lower 48 states. It's freezing cold for much of the year, and thanks to Alaska's isolation, costs for basic things like groceries are much higher than you'll see in other states.

That said, Anchorage makes a compelling argument for people looking for a new home: It has a booming, diverse population but enjoys a distinctly small-town vibe. Not to mention, it's a haven for adventure seekers and nature lovers, as well as quirky events like the Summer Solstice Festival and the Mr. Fur Face Beard and Mustache Contest. And because the summers are so short, residents take advantage of every minute.



41. Ft. Meyers, Florida

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Fort Myers, Florida

(Wikimedia Commons)

Population: 680,970

Average annual salary: $40,420

Quality of life: 6.3

Value index: 5.2

The charming streets of Fort Myers attract people of all ages, even if the southwestern Florida city is better known as a retirement destination. More than a third of the rapidly growing population is under 34 years old. Residents take advantage of Fort Myers' vibrant downtown, and the city's convenient location on Florida's Gulf Coast lends itself to water activities like boating and fishing. People in Fort Myers tend to pay a little extra for real estate and transportation, but they save thanks to Florida's lack of state income taxes.



40. Fort Wayne, Indiana

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40. Fort Wayne, Indiana

(City of Fort Wayne - Municipal Government/Facebook)

Population: 426,755

Average annual salary: $42,250

Quality of life: 6.1

Value index: 8.7

The Rust Belt hub of Fort Wayne, Indiana, is seeing something of a revitalization as of late. Manufacturers including General Motors and BAE Systems have brought jobs to the area, while its economy is seeing a spike from young people eager to move downtown from the suburbs.

"With its low cost of living and quiet neighborhoods, Fort Wayne, Indiana, is an excellent place to buy a house, start a career, launch a business and raise children," a local expert said.



39. Albany, New York

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39. Albany, New York

(Ron Cogswell/Flickr)

Population: 879,291

Average annual salary: $52,340

Quality of life: 6.9

Value: 7.2

Despite the snowy winters, living in Albany comes with several advantages. Albany offers a cost of living lower than the national average and the cost of housing sits well below the rest of the US as a whole. In terms of jobs, the city's tech and healthcare industries are on the rise.

Albany's downtown is lined with art galleries, wine shops, and churches for visitors to peruse. In keeping with the city's cold climate, hockey is the sport of choice for residents.



38. Charleston, South Carolina

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38. Charleston, South Carolina

(Shutterstock)

Population: 728,271

Average annual salary: $44,500

Quality of life: 6.2

Value index: 6.2

Charleston's charming, historic, and sophisticated ambiance is exemplary of southern culture. "Not only is the area overflowing with entertainment and good food, but this low country locale is also gorgeous," said a local expert.

Tourism is booming in Charleston, creating plenty of jobs, especially in the summer months. Year-round, jobs in tech, sales, marketing, and advertising keep the city's economy strong.



37. Manchester, New Hampshire

12. Manchester, New Hampshire: at least $109,798 play

12. Manchester, New Hampshire: at least $109,798

(Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Population: 404,948

Average annual salary: $51,920

Quality of life: 7.0

Value index: 6.7

Manchester, New Hampshire may be smaller than most metropolitan areas on the east coast, but it makes up for it with its strong culture, youthful vibe, and political character. New Hampshire's largest town skews young and educated thanks to the various colleges that call with home.



36. Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio in 2017. play

Columbus, Ohio in 2017.

(f11photo/Shutterstock)

Population: 1,995,004

Average annual salary: $48,850

Quality of life: 6.5

Value index: 7.4

Ohio's capital is a bustling city with a youthful flavor and a passion for sports, music, and entertainment. For many residents, life revolves around the Ohio State University football team — "the region lives and breathes football," as one local expert put it. But it's the business-friendly economy and affordability that contributes to its entry on this list. Between home prices, monthly rents, and the overall cost of living, Columbus is cheaper than most metros of its size.



35. Honolulu, Hawaii

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35. Honolulu, Hawaii

(Shutterstock)

Population: 986,999

Average annual salary: $51,080

Quality of life: 6.5

Value index: 4.7

Often considered the cultural and culinary hub of the Hawaiian islands, according to U.S. News' local expert, Honolulu abounds with shopping centers, restaurants, and miles of beaches. It's on the expensive side when it comes to cost of living — but you can't beat the year-round tropical temperatures.



34. Sarasota, Florida

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34. Sarasota, Florida

(Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Population: 751,422

Average annual salary: $41,870

Quality of life: 7.3

Value index: 5.3

Sarasota boasts "warm temperatures year-round, award-winning beaches, and a thriving arts and cultural scene," said a local expert. The biggest employers in Sarasota are in education, trade, and transportation, and the leisure and hospitality sector touts a low unemployment rate powered by a recent increase in tourism and a flood of new residents.



33. Reno, Nevada

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33. Reno, Nevada

(Andrew Zarivny/Shutterstock)

Population: 443,855

Average annual salary: $45,210

Quality of life: 7.3

Value index: 6.3

Reno, Nevada, is much more than a tourist town. "America’s Biggest Little City" may have been built on the gambling industry, but today offers opportunities in a number of fields including technology and education. The city offers plenty of family-friendly outdoor activities, and people of all ages are drawn there for it’s strong economy and job opportunities.



32. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

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32. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

(Discover Lancaster via Steve Danilla/Facebook)

Population: 533,110

Average annual salary: $43,000

Quality of life: 7.7

Value index: 7.0

In Lancaster, residents can breeze through numerous environments in the course of a day, from rolling farmland to busy city streets to quiet suburbs. Though dairy farming rules the economy here, major companies, including Kellogg's and Mars, also call the area home.

Lancaster might be famous for its Amish and Mennonite population, but the town is also bustling with a mix of college students and non-religious families.



31. Greenville, South Carolina

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31. Greenville, South Carolina

(Cvandyke / Shutterstock)

Population: 862,064

Average annual salary: $42,290

Quality of life: 6.7

Value index: 7.2

Once a sleepy small town, Greenville has witnessed a cultural revival in recent years, complete with an influx of new restaurants and businesses. Though the summers can get hot, the city's typically mild weather make it possible to explore downtown on foot anytime of the year.

An influx of manufacturing jobs have also boosted Greenville's economy, with brand-name companies, such as GE and Michelin, setting up shop in town.



30. San Diego, California

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30. San Diego, California

(Shutterstock/Lowe Llaguno)

Population: 3,253,356

Average annual salary: $55,480

Quality of life: 7.2

Value index: 4.1

With year-round sunshine and beautiful beaches to boot, it's easy to enjoy living in San Diego. According to U.S. News, this Southern California gem "offers world-class dining, professional sports, and entertainment options" for college students, young professionals, and families alike.

Tourism is a huge industry in San Diego — which sees more than 30 million visitors annually — but the city's seaside location is more than just eye candy. Some of the area's largest employersinclude the US Navy and the Marine Corps.



29. Melbourne, Florida

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13. Melbourne, Florida

(Wikimedia Commons)

Population: 560,683

Average annual salary: $46,520

Quality of life: 7.1

Value index: 6.2

Between fishing, boating, and a plethora of bars and restaurants, there's never a shortage of things to do in the Melbourne area. The city's ripe with retirees and "snowbirds" — people who split their time between colder climates in the summer and Florida in the winter — who can enjoy days on one of the many nearby golf courses and nights out exploring the local shops and art galleries.



28. Omaha, Nebraska

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25. Nebraska

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Population: 904,834

Average annual salary: $46,490

Quality of life: 6.6

Value index: 7.9

Due to a combination of Omaha's history of cattle ranching and its current landscape of bustling tech startups, the city has earned the nickname " target="_blank"Silicon Prairie." Plus, eight Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Omaha, including Berkshire Hathaway, Union Pacific Railroad, and Mutual of Omaha. Young professionals and families are attracted to the city primarily for its affordability, safety, and strong economy.



27. Portland, Maine

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27. Portland, Maine

(Flickr/Phillip Capper)

Population: 523,874

Average annual salary: $47,770

Quality of life: 7.2

Value index: 6.4

Located right on the water at Casco Bay and lined with cobblestone streets, Portland immediately evokes the quaintness of a much smaller town. Between fishing, sailing, cross-country skiing, and exploring the city's buzzing nightlife, there's no shortage of things to do. Seafood lovers can nosh on fresh catches at the city's modern oyster bars and or grab one of Maine's signature lobster rolls.



26. Houston, Texas

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26. Houston, Texas

(Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Population: 6,482,592

Average annual salary: $52,870

Quality of life: 6.9

Value index: 7.1

Houston is a major player in the oil and gas, manufacturing, aerospace, and healthcare industries — it's also home to 26 Fortune 500 companies. According to one local expert, "a paycheck goes further in Houston than it does in other major cities, with affordable housing and free or cheap attractions." Plus, the city has an affinity for food, counting some 11,000 restaurants within its boundaries.



25. Boston, Massachusetts

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25. Boston, Massachusetts

(f11photo/Shutterstock)

Population: 4,728,844

Average annual salary: $64,080

Quality of life: 6.5

Value index: 5.9

Boston attracts a diverse group of residents, including everyone from recent college graduates to retirees and musicians to engineers. The historical city — often referred to as the "Cradle of Liberty," according to one local expert — also overflows with team spirit for the Red Sox and 2017 Super Bowl champions, the Patriots.



24. Asheville, North Carolina

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24. Asheville, North Carolina

(Sean Pavone / Shutterstock)

Population: 441,724

Average annual salary: $40,330

Quality of life: 7.2

Value index: 6.3

It's no surprise why the mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina, is beloved by tourists and residents alike. Nestled in between the Blue Ride and Appalachian mountains, Asheville is a magnet for outdoors lovers as well as fans of music, art, and craft beer.



23. Boise, Idaho

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23. Boise, Idaho

(Charles Knowles/Shutterstock)

Population: 663,680

Average annual salary: $43,040

Quality of life: 6.8

Value index: 7.4

Idaho's capital city is "a recreationalist's paradise," according to one local expert, who also said Boise sits "squarely on the boundary of urban and rural, civilized and wild, refined and raw." The region is home to more than 22,000 Boise State University students and provides jobs at government agencies as well as in tech and healthcare.



22. Charlotte, North Carolina

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22. Charlotte, North Carolina

(Shutterstock/digidreamgrafix)

Population: 2,381,152

Average annual salary: $49,600

Quality of life: 6.4

Value index: 7.5

A "melting pot effect" draws all types of people to Charlotte, a place with "equal parts old-fashioned southern charm and high-energy cosmopolitan bustle," touted one local expert. NASCAR and motorsports are a cultural cornerstone of Charlotte. The Queen City houses Bank of America's headquarters and major offices for Wells Fargo, making it one of the largest financial hubs in the country.



21. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

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21. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

(Henryk Sadura/Shutterstock)

Population: 495,193

Average annual salary: $43,620

Quality of life: 7.1

Value index: 7.8

Lexington, Kentucky, is known as the horse capital of the world, and residents are especially proud of their city's reputation for equestrian. On top of world-famous horse parks and race courses, the area has more than 1,000 horse farms, not to mention streets named after Triple Crown winners and a bevy of horse statues in parks around the city. But a love of equestrian isn't the only thing Lexington offers.

Younger residents move there for its college-town feel and appreciation for local sports and music. And the area is a haven for fans of the outdoors — the nearby Red River Gorge and Cumberland Falls are scenic places for residents to explore their surroundings.



20. San Francisco, California

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20. San Francisco, California

(IVASHstudio/Shutterstock)

Population: 4,577,530

Average annual salary: $69,110

Quality of life: 6.4

Value index: 5.3

A local expert described San Francisco as "the heart of the bohemian lifestyle, the epicenter of the LGBT rights movement, and the launching point of the technology era." In the last decade, thousands of tech companies have raced to set up shop in the Bay Area, sending the cost of living through the roof. But despite all the focus on the tech and startup scene, the city also has plenty of business jobs available with more than 30 international finance headquarters.



19. Phoenix, Arizona

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19. Phoenix, Arizona

(Dreamframer/Shutterstock)

Population: 4,486,153

Average annual salary: $47,540

Quality of life: 6.8

Value index: 6.6

Come for the weather, stay for the city: Phoenix boasts more sunny days per year than any other city in the US, according to a local expert. But it's the thriving job market, variety of shops and restaurants, and easy access to numerous outdoor activities — think everything from hiking to paddleboarding — that keep residents happy long-term.



18. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

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18. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

(Philip Lange/Shutterstock)

Population: 6,957,123

Average annual salary: $50,350

Quality of life: 7.0

Value index: 7.1

A healthy balance of urban and rural, Dallas offers residents "big-city excitement and quiet, suburban living," shared one local expert. There's local bars, retail shops, and plenty of sports spirit to satisfy the huge population. The city — with large large employers in business, finance, and education — is teeming with young professionals.



17. San Jose, California

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17. San Jose, California

(Uladzik Kryhin/Shutterstock)

Population: 1,943,107

Average annual salary: $78,990

Quality of life: 7.4

Value index: 5.7

The sprawling city of San Jose is "as much defined by its suburban neighborhoods and large tech campuses as it is by the high-rises in its business district," said a local expert. Young residents and recent graduates of nearby Stanford and UC Berkeley have no trouble finding jobs in the area, which touts Cisco, eBay, and IBM as its largest private-sector employers.



16. Madison, Wisconsin

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16. Madison, Wisconsin

(Jordan Richmond/Flickr)

Population: 634,269

Average annual salary: $50,830

Quality of life: 7.1

Value index: 7.3

Wisconsin's capital is a "hotbed of the healthcare, information technology, and manufacturing industries," said a local expert. The area is also home to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, providing hundreds of jobs in education. Madison has a unique food culture that's a blend of fine dining and farmer's markets catering to the city's college students, young professionals, and families.



15. Salt Lake City, Utah

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15. Salt Lake City, Utah

(f11photo/Shutterstock)

Population: 2,361,981

Average annual salary: $46,221

Quality of life: 6.9

Value index: 7.9

Salt Lake City might experience some of the snowiest weather in the country, but residents make the most of it through the multitude of ski resorts perched in the city's backyard. In warmer weather, residents can take advantage of Salt Lake's more than 900 acres of public parks and enjoy outdoor performances from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Temple Square.



14. San Antonio, Texas

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14. San Antonio, Texas

(f11photo/Shutterstock)

Population: 2,332,345

Average annual salary: $45,210

Quality of life: 7.0

Value index: 7.0

At once a destination city and a down-home community, San Antonio offers up a variety of cuisines, music styles, and art for visitors and locals. The city hosts "more than 50 major events and festivals throughout the year," a number of which honor the area's Spanish heritage, said a local expert. San Antonio is home to four military and air force bases and camps, collectively known as Joint Base San Antonio.



13. Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

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13. Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

(Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Population: 1,786,119

Average annual salary: $52,669

Quality of life: 6.7

Value index: 7.8

Raleigh-Durham and Chapel Hill are collectively known as the Triangle, an area anchored by its foundation in research and tech. The Triangle employs nearly 40,000 residents at companies like IBM, SAS Institute Inc., and Cisco Systems as well as surrounding colleges Duke, North Carolina State, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A strong job market coupled with a burgeoning microbrewery and dining scene draws 80 new residents every day, said a local expert.



12. Grand Rapids, Michigan

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12. Grand Rapids, Michigan

(Maria Dryfhout/Shutterstock)

Population: 1,028,173

Average annual salary: $43,610

Quality of life: 7.7

Value index: 8.1

Grand Rapids attracts "college students and young families with its healthy job market, affordable housing, and outdoor recreational activities," said a local expert. The self-proclaimed "Beer City USA" has more than 40 breweries as well as dynamic public art and music scenes.

Once a hub for furniture production, Grand Rapids' job market is now dominated by education and healthcare, with many opportunities for workers without a college degree.



11. Nashville, Tennessee

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11. Nashville, Tennessee

(ESB Professional/Shutterstock)

Population: 1,794,570

Average annual salary: $45,780

Quality of life: 6.1

Value index: 7.3

Honky-tonk culture and an entrepreneurial spirit define Nashville. "A blossoming job market and an exploding entertainment scene [are] fueling an appetite (and thirst) for all things locally sourced and artisanal in craft," a local expert said. Thousands of residents work in healthcare at the area's large hospitals and research centers, small startups, and business accelerator programs.



10. Seattle, Washington

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10. Seattle, Washington

(Roman Khomlyak/Shutterstock)

Population: 3,671,095

Average annual salary: $61,170

Quality of life: 6.2

Value index: 6.4

Seattle is sandwiched between water and mountains and doesn't get as much rain as you'd think, said one local expert. The city's residents are drawn to the area for its atmosphere of "calm and patience" and its close proximity to nature. Jobs in Seattle are concentrated in tech, healthcare, and maritime industries, but the city is also a huge manufacturing center for companies like Boeing.



9. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

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9. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

(Scruggelgreen/Shutterstock)

Population: 3,488,436

Average annual salary: $55,010

Quality of life: 6.9

Value index: 7.9

The Twin Cities have "big-city amenities like museums and sports stadiums, but also have an approachable, Midwestern feel," according to a local expert. Residents are accustomed to the area's changing seasons, participating in ice fishing and cross-country skiing in the winter and music festivals and baseball games in the spring and summer.

Jobs are available in science-focused fields at companies like Xcel Energy and Medtronic as well as retail corporations like Best Buy and Target.



8. Washington, DC

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8. Washington, DC

(Richard Ricciardi/Flickr)

Population: 6,011,752

Average annual salary: $68,000

Quality of life: 6.4

Value index: 7.4

The District's neighborhoods each give off their own vibe, but across the city residents often "gather for block parties, mingle at dog parks, and converse at coffee shops," explained a local expert. While Washington, DC, is known as a hub for politics, there's also a strong job market for education and health services.



7. Huntsville, Alabama

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7. Huntsville, Alabama

(Rob Hainer/Shutterstock)

Population: 440,230

Average annual salary: $52,960

Quality of life: 7.0

Value index: 8.8

The once-sleepy town of Huntsville, Alabama, gained fame in the 1960s when it became a hub for NASA. Now Huntsville is undergoing another renaissance, with tech companies, craft breweries, and artists all flocking to the town in recent years.

Huntsville is the fastest-growing city in Alabama, and residents are enjoying an emerging downtown shopping and and dining scene even as the city maintains a low cost of living. If you can handle the heat and humidity, you might find yourself at home there.



6. Portland, Oregon

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6. Portland, Oregon

(Shutterstock)

Population: 2,351,319

Average annual salary: $53,960

Quality of life: 6.5

Value index: 6.5

Portland isn't for everybody — its slogan is "Keep Portland Weird," after all. But one local expert asserts that it's a "well-rounded city with more than just the offbeat shops and events" and a population that has "more academic degrees than the national average."

An annual job growth rate of 2.9% per year is attributed to roots in the technology sector, including major employer Intel Corporation, as well as the 6,000-employee headquarters for Nike, located about seven miles outside of Portland.



5. Fayetteville, Arkansas

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5. Fayetteville, Arkansas

(Wikimedia Commons)

Population: 503,642

Average annual salary: $44,980

Quality of life: 7.5

Value index: 7.9

Fayetteville sits among the Ozark Mountains and is home to the University of Arkansas' flagship campus. The surrounding area of northwest Arkansas is home to headquarters for seven Fortune 500 companies including Walmart and Tyson Foods. The city has experienced immense growth, according to a local expert, who said the region has evolved "from a small town to a center of higher education, culture, commerce, and entrepreneurialism."



4. Des Moines, Iowa

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4. Des Moines, Iowa

(Katie Haugland Bowen/Flickr)

Population: 611,755

Average annual salary: $49,420

Quality of life: 7.0

Value index: 8.5

Des Moines is drawing millennials and young families alike for its "one-of-a-kind shops, locally owned restaurants, and hip bars" as well as its historical residences in quiet neighborhoods, said a local expert. Home to more than 80 insurance companies including giants Allied Insurance and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, the job market is thriving.



3. Denver, Colorado

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3. Denver, Colorado

(Arina P Habich/Shutterstock)

Population: 2,752,056

Average annual salary: $54,910

Quality of life: 6.7

Value index: 7.2

While Denver sits at the base of the Rocky Mountains, it's not considered a mountain town since it takes at least an hour to get to the Rockies for snowboarding and ski activities, a local expert explained. At 5,279 feet, the Mile High City lives up to its name in more ways than one: In 2012, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, paving the way for a flourishing and lucrative cannabis industry.



2. Colorado Springs, Colorado

2. Colorado Springs, Colorado play

2. Colorado Springs, Colorado

(Vicki L. Miller/Shutterstock)

Population: 688,643

Average annual salary: $49,450

Quality of life: 7.2

Value index: 7.2

Colorado Springs is "booming, with new residences popping up alongside quality schools, parks, and cultural attractions," touts a local expert. The city is just an hour drive from Denver and in close proximity to Aspen and Vail's world-class ski resorts. Military jobs influence Colorado Springs' culture and economy, but jobs are also available in medical innovation and tech.



1. Austin, Texas

1. Austin, Texas play

1. Austin, Texas

(Julia Robinson/Reuters)

Population: 1,942,615

Average annual salary: $50,830

Quality of life: 7.1

Value index: 7.1

The capital of Texas gains about 50 new residents daily, many seeking out the city's "music, outdoor spaces, and cultural institutions," said a local expert.

Austin is beloved for its live music scene and is host to some of the country's biggest music and culture festivals, including South by Southwest and Austin City Limits. The city was nicknamed " target="_blank"Silicon Hills" in the 1990s for its status as "among the top areas for venture capital investment in the country."