Posted on August 16, 2011

America’s Best Places to Live, 2011

Yahoo! Real Estate, August 15, 2011

{snip} A team of seven MONEY reporters spent months combing through reams of data provided by OnBoard Informatics and other sources and fanning out across the country to identify small towns (those with populations of less than 50,000) that stand out in the qualities American families care about most.

The goal: Find the best combination of job opportunities, fiscal strength, top-notch schools, safe streets, good healthcare, cultural and outdoor activities, even nice weather. The result: MONEY’s 100 Best Places to Live. The top 10 follow.

No. 10–Chanhassen, MN

Population: 23,000

Unemployment: 5.5%

Despite some 2011 budgetary brouhahas in the state of Minnesota, Chanhassen has plenty going for it–including good jobs right within its borders (manufacturing and technology company Emerson is based here), evening diversion (the Chanhassen Dinner Theater is the nation’s oldest and largest), and nature galore (34 parks, 11 lakes, and the enormous Minnesota Landscape Arboretum). The town’s new state-of-the-art high school has racked up some national awards in just its second year. {snip}

No. 9–Mukilteo, WA

Population: 20,300

Unemployment: 8.2%

{snip} And the town is spending to beef up its attractions: A new 29,000-square-foot community center debuted in February, and historic Lighthouse Park recently got a makeover. {snip}

No. 8–Middleton, WI

Population: 17,400

Unemployment: 5.1%

{snip} Its walkable downtown has plenty of good restaurants, shops, and quirky attractions (National Mustard Museum, anyone?). {snip}

No. 7–Liberty, MO

Population: 29,100

Unemployment: 7.6%

{snip} The school district is consistently ranked as one of Missouri’s best; student musicians play in a new state-of-the-art facility, and budding broadcast journalists have their own public-access channel. {snip}

No. 6–Hanover, NH

Population: 8,600

Unemployment: 4.4%


No. 5–Papillion, NE

Population: 18,900

Unemployment: 4.2%

Nebraska, sexy? You’d better believe it. With agriculture booming, towns here are showing employment and housing-market strength that’s the envy of the coasts.


No. 4–Leesburg, VA

Population: 42,600

Unemployment: 4.1%

Leesburg, which snuggles up to the Virginia-Maryland border, offers proximity to plenty of good jobs not just in government but also in defense contracting, consulting, and technology. True, commutes can be abysmal. {snip} On the negative side, there are some run-down neighborhoods.

No. 3–Solon, OH

Population: 23,300

Unemployment: 8.2%


Culture? Solon has its own philharmonic orchestra. Schools? Solon was the highest-achieving district in Ohio last year. And the student body is diverse: 11% of residents are black, 10% Asian. {snip}

No. 2–Milton, MA

Population: 27,000

Unemployment: 6.6%

Milton is just minutes from the jobs and culture of Boston but feels in places like a country getaway. Tree-lined streets are dotted with historic homes. Single-family home prices have remained essentially unchanged since the market’s peak in 2005. One major reason for this stability is the outstanding school system, which boasts six brand-new buildings and offers such rich opportunities as a French immersion program that begins in elementary school. {snip}

No. 1–Louisville, CO

Population: 18,400

Unemployment: 6.3%

This sunny, lively mountain town is safe (crime rates are among the lowest in Colorado) and easy to navigate. {snip} Its schools consistently rank among the top three academically in the Denver area. {snip}

[Editor’s Note: Though the MONEY team’s analysis did not consider racial diversity, all of these cities are overwhelmingly white and have very few NAMs (Non-Asian Minorities). In fact, 7 of the top 10 cities boast fewer that 10 percent NAMs. The only city with more than 20 percent NAMs is Leesburg, VA, which the authors note has “some run-down neighborhoods.” Below are the percentages of whites and Asians for each top ten city.]

Chanhassen, MN: 90.8% white, 4.6% Asian

Mukilteo, WA: 75.4% white, 15.7% Asian

Middleton, WI: 88.1% white, 3.6% Asian

Liberty, MO: 92.3% white, 0.4% Asian

Hanover, NH: 83.9% white, 8.9% Asian

Papillion, NE: 93% white, 1.5 % Asian

Leesburg, VA: 72.8% white, 6.7% Asian

Solon, OH: 80.4% white, 8.9% Asian

Milton, MA: 82.5% white, 4.9% Asian

Louisville, CO: 91.17% white, 3.55% Asian