Exploring Most Livable Cities in the U.S.: Insights from the 2024 Best Places to Live Study

Which small and medium-sized cities in the U.S. offer the best quality of life right now? To find out, we spoke with Amanda Ellis, Editor in Chief at Livability.com. She shares fresh insights from this year’s “Top 100 Best Places to Live in the U.S.” survey. Let’s explore the key findings, trends, and surprises uncovered by her team’s extensive research.

Amanda, could you provide an overview of some of the most surprising results from this year’s “Top 100 Best Places to Live in the U.S.”?

Overall we see some consistency year to year, which makes sense when you consider the consistency in our methodology. We did see some interesting newcomers to the list like O’Fallon, Missouri; Kennewick, Washington, and Murrieta, California.

What trends have you noticed in small and mid-sized cities that are defining their appeal?

We’re seeing our U.S. smaller cities embracing their advantages over large metros more than ever—qualities like affordability, ease of getting around, and being able to get involved and connected relatively quickly.

What specific criteria and metrics were prioritized in this year’s ranking?

We partner with Applied Geographic Solutions (AGS) to curate our Top 100 Best Places To Live in the U.S. based on nearly 100 data points and an algorithm that takes into account measures of eight categories: a city’s economy, housing and cost of living, amenities, transportation, environment, safety, education, and health.

In the past, we have typically weighted some of these categories more heavily than others based on what we thought would be most important to our readers. In contrast, this year we weighted all eight categories equally to determine our Liv scores.

We truly want our list to help you find your personal best place, so we’ve left it up to each individual to filter and rank the categories that mean the most to them for a personalized top 100.

However, we do focus on affordability—only cities with a median home value of $500,000 or less were considered. Analysis of average rent and home prices relative to income in each city is also part of the selection process.

Which cities emerged as champions in this year’s study, and what unique qualities or strategies do they possess that contribute to their high livability scores?

The cities with the highest Liv scores this year include Carmel, Indiana; Cary, North Carolina; Columbia, Maryland; Fishers, Indiana; and Naperville, Illinois.

All these cities performed well across various categories, with particular strengths in education for Columbia, Cary, and Naperville, and health in Naperville.

The Livability Top 100 is not a traditional ranked list from No. 1 to No. 100 best places to live in America. Instead, we present the top 100 cities based on our research, allowing users to filter and rank the criteria to create a personalized best places list.

Can you discuss any common challenges or characteristics among the cities that ranked lower on the list?

It’s important to note that our Top 100 Best Places to Live represents the top 5% of U.S. cities with populations within the studied range—more than 2,500 cities. Even cities with the lowest Liv scores are still exceptional.

Typically, cities at the bottom of our list might underperform in one or two categories, but specifics can vary. These communities continuously strive to improve, which can take years to reflect in the data. The key for any city is to preserve what makes it special while identifying and improving on weaker areas.

Based on the trends and data from this year’s list, what predictions can you make about future movements in city rankings?

We’ve noticed certain cities consistently achieving high marks over the years and expect them to continue to be recognized. Specifically, the cities among the top ten Liv scores are likely to remain strong contenders.

Additionally, mid-sized cities in the Midwest and Southeast are poised to maintain their appeal, attracting people looking for an ideal blend of affordability, amenities, and community impact.

Thank you, Amanda.

For more detailed analysis on livable cities and personalized options, check out Livability.com. For a global perspective on city rankings and trends, visit the TPBO City Observatory. These resources offer valuable insights for understanding urban environments both in the U.S. and worldwide.


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