2016

Top 100 Best Places to Live


Our third annual ranking of the best small to mid-sized cities in the U.S.

We ranked more than 2,000 cities with populations between 20,000 and 350,000 to come up with our third annual Top 100 Best Places to Live. This is a data-driven list based on more than 40 data points. This year we are proud to have collaborated with world-renowned urbanist Richard Florida and assistant clinical professor Steven Pedigo from the Initiative for Creativity and Innovation in Cities at NYU School of Professional Studies, our new data partners EMSI and our stellar board of advisors in shaping our proprietary methodology and the framework by which we rank the cities. See if your town made this year's list (or the 2015 and 2014 rankings). Get ready to plot your next move, and make one of these best places your best place.

600 = The city’s overall score, based on the weighted sum of the eight component scores.

Advisory Board

Livability.com's advisory board consists of professionals, academics and authors who are experts in a variety of fields related to making cities great places to live and work. They offered advice and suggestions on what to measure and how to find the data used in building our index.

Bridget B. Catlin

Bridget directs the Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health (MATCH) group in the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) in Madison, Wis. Since joining UWPHI in 2005, her work has focused on research and development to support community health improvement. She is the Director of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Bridget began her health career in administration in a variety of health-care settings and then transitioned to applied research and development, spending 15 years at UW’s Center for Health Systems Research and Analysis, leading consumer information and performance measurement projects funded by federal and state government. Bridget received a PhD in Health Systems Engineering from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, a MHSA from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and a BA from Clark University in Worcester, Mass.


Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen is Vice President of Research and Policy at Americans for the Arts, the nation's advocacy organization for the arts. Cohen is an expert in the fields of arts funding, research, policy and using the arts to address community development issues. He publishes The National Arts Index, the annual measure of the health and vitality of arts, as well as the two premier economic studies of the arts industry – Arts & Economic Prosperity and Creative Industries. Previously, he was a policy specialist for the National Endowment for the Arts, founded the San Diego Theatre for Young Audiences and served as its managing director, and served as chairman of the Takoma Park Arts and Humanities Commission.


Ellen Dunham-Jones

Ellen Dunham-Jones is a professor of architecture and urban design at the Georgia Institute of Technology. As co-author with June Williamson of Retrofitting Suburbia; Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs (Wiley & Sons, 2009) her work has received significant media attention in The New York TimesHarvard Business Review and other venues. The book received the 2009 PROSE award for architecture and urban planning from the American Association of Publishers and was featured in Time Magazine’s March 23, 2009 cover story, “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.” She serves as co-peer review editor for Places Journal and is vice chair of the Board of Directors of the Congress for the New Urbanism.


Peter Haas

Peter Haas is Chief Research Scientist at the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a 34-year-old Chicago-based think-and-do tank that works nationally to advance urban sustainability. Haas joined CNT in 1994 and co-leads a staff of six who provide the technical, geographical and analytic underpinnings for all of CNT’s work. Haas and his team have revolutionized the geographic analysis of social, environmental and economic data to produce groundbreaking tools for measuring sustainability in urban areas. He has been integral in the development of CNT’s location efficiency metrics, including the landmark Housing + Transportation (H+T)® Affordability Index.


Selma Hepp of Trulia

Selma Hess

Selma Hess is Trulia’s Chief Economist. Previously, she was a senior economist at the California Association of REALTORS® and as an economist and manager of public policy and homeownership at the National Association of REALTORS®. She has also worked as a research associate at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education. Currently, Selma collaborates with the University of Southern California’s Lusk Center for Real Estate and the REALTOR® University Center for Real Estate Studies. 


Rodney Harrell

Rodney Harrell is the Senior Strategic Policy Advisor – Housing, Livable Communities at AARP’s Public Policy Institute. Harrell is responsible for AARP's policy development on housing and related livable communities issues, managing the housing research agenda, conducting independent research, and making public appearances. He is a prolific writer and maintains his own blog atwww.drurbanpolicy.com. Prior to joining AARP, he worked as a research and evaluation consultant, as a researcher and instructor for the University of Maryland, and as a Maryland Governor's Fellow covering revitalization and housing issues.


Joel Kotkin

Joel Kotkin is the Distinguished Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.; a contributing editor to the City Journal in New York; a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Civil Service College in Singapore; and a Fellow at the National Chamber Foundation. He latest book is The New Class Conflict. He is also the author of The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. Kotkin is a highly respected speaker and futurist, and he consults for many leading economic development organizations, private companies, regions and cities. He also serves as executive editor of the website www.newgeography.com.


Christopher Leinberger

Christopher Leinberger is a land-use strategist, teacher, developer, researcher and author, who balances business realities with social and environmental concerns. Leinberger is President of Locus: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors; The Charles Bendit Distinguished Scholar and Research Professor, George Washington University School of Business; Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution in Washington D.C.; and Founding Partner of Arcadia Land Company, a New Urbanism and transit-oriented development firm. His most recent book is The Option of Urbanism, Investing in a New American Dream. He was the 2010 William H. Whyte Urbanism Award winner by Partners for Livable Communities.


Kathryn Pettit

Kathryn Pettit

Kathryn L.S. Pettit is a Senior Research Associate in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute whose work focuses on measuring and understanding neighborhood change. She serves as the co-director of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a collaborative effort by the Urban Institute and local partners to further the development and use of neighborhood-level information systems in local policymaking and community building. She is a recognized expert on local and national data systems that are useful in housing and urban development research and program development and in database management. She previously led the Institute's work on providing data and analytic content for DataPlace, a national Web-based resource for small-area indicators.


James Rojas

James Rojas is a city and transportation planner based in Los Angeles. Rojas is the founder of Place It! and the Latino Urban Forum, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing awareness of planning and design issues facing low-income Latinos. He has written and lectured extensively about how culture and immigration are transforming the American front yard and landscape, and through Place It!, organizes on-site model installations and interactive workshops designed to increase public participation in and understanding of the planning process. He holds an M.A. in city planning and an M.S. in architecture studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Emily Talen

Emily Talen is a professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and Director of the Phoenix Urban Research Lab at Arizona State University. She is also co-editor of the Journal of Urbanism. Talen's research focuses on exploring the spatial patterns of American cities. Most often, this work incorporates GIS as a tool of exploration – for example, in the investigation of accessibility, spatial equity, sprawl and ideal urban form. She is the author of City Rules: How Regulations Affect Urban FormUrban Design Reclaimed and Design for Diversity, among others.


Jeff Speck

Jeff Speck is a city planner and architectural designer who advocates internationally for smart growth and sustainable design. As Director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 through 2007, he oversaw the Mayors' Institute on City Design and created the Governors' Institute on Community Design, a federal program that helps state governors fight suburban sprawl. Previously, Speck was Director of Town Planning at Duany Plater-Zyberk and Co., a leading practitioner of the New Urbanism. He is the co-author of Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream as well as The Smart Growth Manual. He serves as a contributing editor to Metropolis Magazine. His latest book is Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time.


Kevin Stolarick

Kevin Stolarick

Dubbed the “Official Statistician of the Creative Class,” Dr. Stolarick combines expertise on cities, urbanization, statistics, data and economic development with an appreciation of the importance of finding and sharing the knowledge or “pearls of wisdom” gained from leveraging his research, writing, management and organizational skills. He was the founding Research Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and the inaugural Walton Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Sustainability, Arizona State University. He currently teaches for the Urban Studies Program at the University of Toronto. He holds a PhD in Business Administration and an MBA from the Tepper School of Management, Carnegie Mellon University; a Masters in Higher Education Leadership from the University of Toronto; and a BS in Honors in Applied Computer Science from Illinois State University.


Lynn Wombold

Lynn Wombold

Lynn Wombold is the chief demographer at Esri where she manages the development of unique databases such as demographic updates; consumer spending; Retail MarketPlace; and the Tapestry market segmentation system, the processing of decennial census data and the American Community Survey and the acquisition and integration of third-party data. She is also responsible for custom analysis and modeling projects. She has more than 35 years of experience in population estimates and projections, state and local demography, census data, survey research and consumer data. Ms. Wombold holds degrees in sociology, with a specialty in demographic studies from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.


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