Top 100 Best Places to Live: Methodology & Ranking Criteria


With a name like Livability, we take our Best Places to Live list very seriously, and we want you to understand the decisions that went into and the data that drove the creation of this year’s list.

So how exactly do we craft the ranking?

Each year, we analyze data from the best resources out there (more on that later!) to study thousands of cities.

This year we ranked more than 2,300 cities with populations between 20,000 and 1,000,000 according to the latest projections from our data partner, Esri. For each city, we use our proprietary algorithm to calculate a LivScore. The LivScore is based on more than 50 data points grouped into nine categories:

  • Amenities
  • Remote-Readiness
  • Economy
  • Demographics
  • Housing
  • Social and Civic Capital
  • Education
  • Health Care
  • Transportation and Infrastructure

Where do we get our data?

We pull in data from the best public and private data sources available.

Our trusted sources include public-sector providers such as U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Federal Aviation Administration, the United States Golf Association, the Federal Communications Commission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of Education. We also source data from leading private-sector sources including Esri, Emsi, Great Schools and ATTOM.

We also find great data created by nonprofits such as the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

What’s different this year?

This is our eighth year of the annual Top 100 Best Places to Live ranking and we’ve seen firsthand how the definition of livability has evolved.

Given the rise in flexible working conditions, many experienced during the pandemic — and many experts predict will continue — we created a new category for cities that are especially hybrid or remote work-ready. To gauge this, we looked at the accessibility of broadband, high-speed Internet, population density (important to support a wide array of businesses), number of businesses in certain non-service industries that could allow for working from home, and the number of libraries. These serve as a proxy for “third spaces” outside of the home or office where someone might find a quiet place to work – without having to buy a cup of coffee. Finally, our data friends at EMSI provided us with a county-level look at their Talent Attraction Scorecard report that factors in population changes due to migration, overall and skilled job growth, job openings per capita and regional competitiveness for skilled jobs.

Then, we took it one step further. This year we also partnered with Ipsos, a leading global market research firm, and surveyed more than 1,000 adults aged 18 and up about the factors that are most important to them when deciding where to relocate.

Since March 2020, more than 42% of the U.S. population has either moved or considered moving. So, we asked ourselves:

If you can work from anywhere, where would you choose and why?

The main themes were affordability, job opportunities, diversity and inclusion. We used these results to determine how much weight to give to each data point and make sure our Top 100 list reflects the things that really matter to people.

You can see the results of that Remote Working survey right here.

Does anything else influence this list?

You betcha.

At Livability, we care deeply that each of these cities is actually somewhere that you would want to live. What does that mean?

Our research shows that a good city needs a strong foundation and level playing field for everyone. This means they must provide residents with access to affordable housing, quality health care, low crime rates and a great climate. Then there are the quality of life needs — reputable schools, good infrastructure and economic growth. Last, these cities differentiate themselves from thousands of others by the quality of their amenities. Think golf courses, public parks, farmers markets, arts and culture, etc.

Intrigued? Check out this year’s ranking of the Top 100 Best Places to Live.

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