Best Places To Live In The US 2021 – 2022: Cities And States Ranked
Rachel Burris14-Minute Read
December 09, 2021
Looking for a place to settle down and plant your roots? It can be hard to know where the best place for you would be. After all, what makes one place better than somewhere else? For some, it might be good schools – for others, maybe close proximity to work is a top priority. Everyone will have different preferences for where they should live, but there are a few general things that can help impact your decision, too, like affordability, crime rate, average salary in the area and more.
To give you some ideas for your next move, let’s go through some of the best states and cities to live in based on these factors, ranked by considering data used by the U.S. News & World Report and information gathered by the U.S. Census.
Top 10 Best States To Live In The US In 2021 – 2022
Before we get into the list of the top 10 best states to call home in 2021 and 2022, let’s take a look at the national averages for the statistics we used to help rank our choices for the best states for prospective home buyers for you to compare.
Median Household Income: $62,843
Median House Price: $217,500
Median Monthly Rent: $1,062
Unemployment Rate: 4.6%
Average Commute: 26.9 minutes
Median Household Income: $73,775
Median House Price: $339,000
Median Monthly Rent: $1,258
Unemployment Rate: 5%
Average Commute: 28 mins
Ranking #1 on our list, Washington is a beautiful state with plenty of perks for its residents. It has a temperate climate, beautiful mountains, forests and ocean views and is consistently ranked highly as a very eco-friendly state. There are plenty of job opportunities here as well, with multiple Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing and Starbucks making their home in this state. Washington is also one of the few places in the U.S. that doesn’t have a state income tax. If that sounds great to you – and you don’t mind a little (or a lot) of rain – Washington might be just the state for you and your family.
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Median Household Income: $71,306
Median House Price: $223,900
Median Monthly Rent: $977
Unemployment Rate: 3.5%
Average Commute: 23.7 minutes
Next on our list we have Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes. This state, like others in the Midwest, tends to get very cold in winter – typically between 8°F – 18°F – so it may not be the best choice for those who don’t care for chilly winters. If you love to make the most of the ice and snow, however, Minnesota is a winter wonderland. Minnesota is a fairly affordable state as far as cost of living goes and is home to many attractions such as the Mall of America and nature preserves like the Boundary Waters. It’s also home to more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies, including General Mills and Target.
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Median Household Income: $71,621
Median House Price: $279,100
Median Monthly Rent: $1,037
Unemployment Rate: 2.2%
Average Commute: 21.9 minutes
Coming in at #3, Utah is a gorgeous and affordable state home to unmatched natural splendor. Utah is home to five national parks, each with breathtaking rock formations – Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Capitol Reef and Arches. Utah is also home to a number of ski resorts, which are a huge part of the state’s economy – skiing and snowboarding are huge in this state. With an incredibly low unemployment rate and reasonable cost of living, this Southwestern state is a good choice for those seeking a cheaper alternative to states like Colorado.
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4. New Hampshire
Median Household Income: $76,768
Median House Price: $261,700
Median Monthly Rent: $1,111
Unemployment Rate: 2.9%
Average Commute: 27.5 minutes
New Hampshire is a New England state with historic towns and cities as well as vast natural beauty found in its forests and mountains. It’s home to part of the Appalachian Trail and enjoys four seasons, including an especially beautiful autumn. According to research conducted by SafeHome.org, New Hampshire is also the safest place in the country to raise children, making it a perfect destination for families. There is also no sales tax in New Hampshire nor is there a tax on earned income, though there is one on investment income.
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Median Household Income: $55,785
Median House Price: $212,300
Median Monthly Rent: $853
Unemployment Rate: 2.8%
Average Commute: 21.1 minutes
Idaho is a mountainous state in the Pacific Northwest that is famous for its potatoes. Agriculture is a big deal in Idaho and helps drive its economy. This state is very affordable and full of activities for residents to enjoy year-round. Rafting is a popular pastime, as is camping and many other outdoor activities that take advantage of the state’s beautiful and vibrant land and wildlife. If you’re moving from a more expensive state like California, chances are, you’ll find a higher quality of life in Idaho thanks to not just the beautiful nature, but also the low cost of living, affordable housing and job opportunities.
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6. North Carolina
Median Household Income: $54,602
Median House Price: $172,500
Median Monthly Rent: $907
Unemployment Rate: 4.1%
Average Commute: 24.8 minutes
North Carolina is a southeastern state that is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. With a fairly low cost of living, breathtaking nature and plenty to do for everyone, this state is a great place for almost anyone looking to move. It enjoys warm weather almost year-round and is home to many beautiful beaches, which is definitely a plus for prospective home buyers that hate the snow and love the sand. North Carolina also boasts an excellent education system and reasonably affordable housing. If you’re a lover of beer or barbecue, there is also a huge craft beer scene in North Carolina as well as a statewide adoration of BBQ pork.
Median Household Income: $74,222
Median House Price: $273,100
Median Monthly Rent: $1,234
Unemployment Rate: 3.6%
Average Commute: 28.7 minutes
Ever heard the phrase “Virginia is for lovers”? That slogan, created in 1969, is one of the most famous tourism advertising campaigns of all time – and it’s been very profitable for this East Coast state. One of the 13 original colonies, Virginia is full of beauty and colonial history for residents to appreciate and explore. There’s a low crime rate, fantastic higher education opportunities, and a thriving state economy, too – so while the cost of living is slightly higher here, Virginia definitely makes up for it in other areas that residents can appreciate.
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Median Household Income: $61,747
Median House Price: $180,600
Median Monthly Rent: $856
Unemployment Rate: 3.2%
Average Commute: 22.2 minutes
Wisconsin touches two of the five Great Lakes: Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. That said, this a great place to live if you love lake life. Spending a day on the boat relaxing, fishing, skiing or tubing is a much-loved part of Wisconsin summers for residents. The cost of living here is pretty low, and there are also great schools and plenty to do year-round. Winters can be a little extreme, which can be said of most midwestern states, but if you don’t mind the snow, the four seasons here are beautiful and packed with fun activities for the whole family. If nothing else, this state is also, of course, famous for its cheese.
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Median Household Income: $81,215
Median House Price: $381,600
Median Monthly Rent: $1,282
Unemployment Rate: 5.3%
Average Commute: 30.2 minutes
Massachusetts is the most populous state in the New England region. It’s home to Boston and, of course, Boston sports. Massachusetts residents are ride-or-die for their Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox and Patriots. The state is also home to some of the most prestigious higher education institutions in the country, like Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It’s worth noting that the seafood in Massachusetts is internationally acclaimed, which is great if you’re a foodie. Though the cost of living in this state is a little higher, it’s a fantastic destination for fans of sports, nature, great schools and plentiful job opportunities.
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Median Household Income: $72,331
Median House Price: $343,300
Median Monthly Rent: $1,271
Unemployment Rate: 5.4%
Average Commute: 25.8 minutes
Colorado is another beautiful mountainous state that’s very popular with lovers of the outdoors. Skiing and snowboarding are huge pastimes here, and Colorado has some of the most unique and challenging slopes in the country thanks to its mountainous terrain and high altitude. The economy is ever-growing in this snowy state, too, making it a good destination for those seeking job opportunities. As most people know, Colorado was also one of the first states to legalize marijuana, which made the state $1.75 billion in revenue in 2019. The cost of living here is higher than nearby states like Utah, but worth it if you have your heart set on this beautiful state.
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Top 10 Best Cities To Live In The US In 2021 – 2022
Now that we’ve gone through the best states to call home, let’s rank some of the best cities. There’s a lot to consider when narrowing down your home search to a specific city – from proximity to amenities to affordability and even sustainability. Whether you’re a young professional looking to move for job opportunities or someone seeking a place to retire, let’s count down the top 10 best cities in America to live in to help you make your decision.
1. Boulder, Colorado
Median Household Income: $83,019
Median House Price: $497,300
Median Monthly Rent: $1,495
Unemployment Rate: 5.1%
Average Commute: 23.4 minutes
Boulder is a beautiful city in Colorado with breathtaking views. It was ranked one of the happiest cities in the U.S. by National Geographic in 2017, and for good reason – the quality of life in this city is exceptional. Unlike many places in the U.S., Boulder actually has a fairly decent public transportation system – which means you might not need a car, should you decide to live here. This city is sunny and full of culture and life – and it’s also a college town, so there’s always something going on. This cheerful city has everything – but it does come at a price. The cost of living is definitely a little higher here, as is the price of real estate – but if you can swing it, Boulder can’t be beat.
2. Austin, Texas
Median Household Income: $71,576
Median House Price: $337,400
Median Monthly Rent: $1,280
Unemployment Rate: 5.1%
Average Commute: 24.5 minutes
Austin is a truly unique city in Texas with a reputation for attracting many young professionals and young creatives. Austin stays warm and sunny almost year-round, making it a fantastic place for winter haters – but maybe a not-so-great place if you can’t take the heat. In the summer, Austin reaches temperature highs of near 100°F, sometimes higher. If you’re down with the blistering heat, however, this city has it all. The culture and energy in downtown Austin is always exciting, with new music, food and things to do cropping up every day. Austin is always growing and expanding, and is also a great place to move for work, especially if your job is tech-related.
3. Raleigh, North Carolina
Median Household Income: $67,266
Median House Price: $248,300
Median Monthly Rent: $1,121
Unemployment Rate: 4.3%
Average Commute: 24 minutes
Raleigh is a charming southern city that takes the #3 spot on this list for its unprecedented growth and quality of life. The city has a fairly low cost of living and lots of job opportunities, especially for those who work in tech. It also has a fantastic food scene, with plenty of nationally acclaimed restaurants residing within the city. If you love the beach and the mountains, Raleigh is also in close proximity to both. The city has a great blend of everything for both outdoor lovers and people who adore city life, all for a more affordable price than many other cities in the U.S. can offer.
4. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Median Household Income: $64,712
Median House Price: $269,800
Median Monthly Rent: $1,131
Unemployment Rate: 6.8%
Average Commute: 22.7 minutes
Colorado Springs is one of the more affordable cities in Colorado, which is great news for prospective home buyers looking to make a home in this gorgeous mountainous state that may be nervous about paying the big bucks to live in Denver or even Boulder. Colorado Springs has good weather almost year-round, too, making it a hub for outdoor lovers that dream of spending their free time hiking and exploring. The Springs are home to Pikes Peak as well as many other natural landmarks. Thanks to the citywide love of fitness and the outdoors, Colorado Springs is consistently ranked one of the “worst-dressed” cities in America – so if you frown at business casual dress codes, the Springs may be calling your name.
5. Madison, Wisconsin
Median Household Income: $65,332
Median House Price: $246,300
Median Monthly Rent: $1,118
Unemployment Rate: 3.3%
Average Commute: 19.6 minutes
While you may be surprised to hear a city in Wisconsin is one of the best cities to move to as a young professional, it’s true – and there’s good reason why. Madison has seen considerable growth in recent years and with a low unemployment rate, low cost of living and great education opportunities, it’s become a hub for young home buyers. The city is full of things to do, parks to explore, and a thriving arts scene, too – so if you’re on board with Midwestern winters, Madison might be the perfect place to plant your roots and grow your career or your family.
6. Portland, Oregon
Median Household Income: $71,005
Median House Price: $412,000
Median Monthly Rent: $1,248
Unemployment Rate: 6.9%
Average Commute: 26.5 minutes
Portland is a popular destination for hipsters and general weirdness, but that reputation is part of what makes it not only one of the best places to live in Oregon but also in the United States. Portland is consistently one of the greenest and most eco-friendly cities in the country. It also remains a very casual city with a laid-back vibe hard to find anywhere else. Portland isn’t all strangeness and quirky shops, either – it’s home to both retail and tech giants such as Nike and Intel. It’s also a beautiful place to live and is surrounded by forests, mountains and waterfalls for you to explore. If you’re looking for a truly unique place to fall in love with, Portland is an excellent choice – though the cost of living can be a little high, here.
7. Ann Arbor, Michigan
Median Household Income: $65,745
Median House Price: $323,400
Median Monthly Rent: $1,237
Unemployment Rate: 3.5%
Average Commute: 20 minutes
Ann Arbor is known most mainly as a college town and the home of the University of Michigan. It’s also one of the most unique towns in Michigan and a popular spot to move for many, especially millennials. It has a vibrant and thriving arts scene, fantastic food, and lots of bookstores – if you love to read and explore unique little local bookstores, Ann Arbor is definitely the place for you. Beyond the art and food scene, Ann Arbor is also full of plenty of space to do things outdoors – and it’s home to the Michigan Wolverine sports teams, of course, if you’re a college football or basketball fanatic.
8. Charlotte, North Carolina
Median Household Income: $62,817
Median House Price: $220,300
Median Monthly Rent: $1,135
Unemployment Rate: 4.9%
Average Commute: 25.9 minutes
Charlotte is another Southern city on the rise. This North Carolina city has a very affordable cost of living, decent home prices, and lots of job opportunities – but it’s also on the rise as a big live music city. Charlotte is also a hot spot for food, beer and even coffee lovers, with plenty of unique bars and restaurants cropping up all the time. Charlotte is also located near multiple lakes, if you’re a beach lover. Not only are there nearby lakes, but there are also beautiful mountains near Charlotte, making this scenic city a fantastic and affordable destination for home buyers across the country.
9. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Median Household Income: $62,583
Median House Price: $251,600
Median Monthly Rent: $1,027
Unemployment Rate: 4.5%
Average Commute: 23.2 minutes
Minneapolis a very fast-growing city with lots of potential. With a cost of living only slightly higher than the national average, it’s a very affordable city to make your home in. Minneapolis is full of many attractions, including its Skyway System, a series of enclosed bridges that span 9 miles of the city and allow residents to travel the city without freezing during winter. The city has a thriving economy and job market; like many other cities on this list, it’s a fantastic place to be if you want a career in tech. Lots of other big companies make their home in the city too, like Target’s world headquarters. Taxes are a little higher in this half of the Twin Cities, but if you’re looking for an otherwise fairly affordable city in the Midwest, Minneapolis is a good choice.
10. San Francisco, California
Median Household Income: $112,449
Median House Price: $1,097,800
Median Monthly Rent: $1,895
Unemployment Rate: 5.4%
Average Commute: 33.8 minutes
San Francisco is certainly not a cheap city to move to or live in – but in terms of quality of life, it is one of the best. San Francisco is sunny almost all year long and full of the kind of California magic that you see in movies. The food scene here is world renowned and there’s endless activities for residents to pursue – not to mention gorgeous ocean views and the Golden Gate Bridge. Whether you love the art and culture of this area or just want a life in the sun, San Francisco cannot be beat – you definitely pay for the experience, however, with the median cost of a home in this city weighing in at just over a million dollars.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re interested in moving to a new town or relocating across the country, it’s important to do your research before taking the leap. When you move, there’s a lot to consider that you may not initially have thought about – from affordability to the food scene and everything in between. While the places on this list are all fantastic, everyone is different, and to find the right city for you it’s important that you do your own digging into city and state statistics as well to find a place that speaks to your needs.
If you’ll be moving soon, check out our cost of living calculator to help you evaluate some more of the true and unexpected costs of relocating to a new place.
*The data used to rank the cities in this article was sourced from information collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, BestPlaces.net, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Information on population, median household income, median home price, median monthly rent and average commute was all found in Census data while unemployment rate data was sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bestplaces.net. Data from U.S. News & World Report was also used to help rank the cities and states listed.
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