With urban core counties experiencing population declines for the first time in a decade, in part due to COVID-19 a newly released report on 2021’s Best Small Cities in America,  sheds light on where you might want to relocate if you’re thinking about a smaller city.

To help Americans put down roots in places offering good quality of life and affordability, WalletHub compared more than 1,300 U.S. cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 across 43 key indicators of livability. They range from housing costs and school-system quality to restaurants per capita.

Top 20 Small Cities in America
1. Sammamish, WA 11. Westfield, IN
2. Carmel, IN 12. Redmond, WA
3. Brentwood, TN 13. Brookfield, WI
4. Lexington, MA 14. Arlington, MA
5. Reading, MA 15. Princeton, NJ
6. Zionsville, IN 16. Newton, MA
7. Portland, ME 16. Needham, MA
8. Milton, MA 18. Burlington, MA
9. Melrose, MA 19. Leawood, KS
10. Dublin, OH 20. Southlake, TX

Best vs. Worst

  • Southlake, Texas, has the highest median annual household income, $240,248, which is 10.8 times higher than in Carbondale, Illinois, the city with the lowest at $22,152.
  • Leawood, Kansas, has the lowest share of the population living in poverty, 1.40 percent, which is 45.9 times lower than in Isla Vista, California, the city with the highest at 64.30 percent.
  • Isla Vista, California, has the fewest average hours worked per week, 23.80, which is two times fewer than in Fort Hood, Texas, the city with the most at 47.30.
  • Castle Rock and Parker, Colorado, have the lowest share of adults in fair or poor health, 8.59 percent each, which is 4.2 times lower than in Eagle Pass, Texas, the city with the highest at 36.01 percent.

Some more insight to help you decide:

What are the most important financial factors to consider when deciding where to live?

“Considering financial factors is important. Deciding where to live may depend on one’s place of work. If there is a commute, then a consumer may want to consider commuting versus housing expenditures. If there is no commute, then a consumer may nevertheless consider whether there is reliable broadband/Wi-Fi and whether there is access to a larger city for the occasional trip to consult specialized facilities or to participate in cultural events in person,” according to Katrin B. Anacker, a professor at George Mason University.

“The most important financial factors are four: a) The small city has shown steady residential and commercial/industrial growth over the last decade, b) The small city infrastructure has been well maintained and a capital planning program is being funded, c) The small city has a diverse commercial industrial base (It is not reliant on one type of industry or company), and d), The small city has a strong bond rating,” added Zeenat Kotval-K, Ph.D., AICP, an assistant professor at Michigan State University.

In evaluating the best small cities to live in, what are the top five indicators?

“Low housing cost, many health-care options; the spirit of openness that allows new residents to engage in civic activities; good quality built-environment (buildings in decent shape and aesthetically appealing); easy access to open spaces within and around the town,” said Jerry Anthony, FAICP, an associate professor at the University of Iowa.

“My top five factors: a) They must have topflight schools, b) They must have easy access to medical facilities, c) They must have cultural, architectural natural, and historic features that help them to have a sense of uniqueness and cachet. d) They must be places that welcome diversity and thrive with people of a wide variety of financial incomes. They must be outward-looking and strongly connected to their regions,” Kotval-K said.

What can local policymakers do to attract and retain new residents in small cities?

“Other than employment opportunities: spend on public art, maintaining buildings in downtown and other key areas; ensure that old-timers do not control all civic engagement opportunities; maintain open spaces in and around the town; have a robust set of programs to help lower-income people in the town,” Anthony noted.

“To attract and retain residents, policymakers must promote the positive features of their communities. This promotion must be based on meaningful data (i.e.: school performance and crime statistics). If I was the mayor of a small city, my first step would be to direct my planner to prepare an ‘Asset Study: What’s Good in our City’ and distribute it widely,” Kotval-K mentioned.

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit here

Source: WalletHub