Best places to live in America

Written by:
February 10, 2022
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Best places to live in America

Many may wonder, what exactly makes a place an ideal hometown? Perhaps affordability, an area with a stellar school system, and access to shopping—depending on priorities, any of these might be deciding factors in choosing the best place to live in America.

To help make a choice, Stacker compiled a list of the best places to live in every state using Niche’s 2021 rankings. Niche ranks places to live based on an array of factors, including the cost of living, educational level of residents, housing, and public schools. While this data is the most current available, some housing statistics Niche uses to calculate its rankings—such as median home values and housing costs—are not entirely reflective of the current housing market. Since these numbers are subject to frequent changes and housing represents 10% of Niche’s total ranking, those statistics are omitted from forthcoming data points and do not detract from Niche’s overall assessment of the best places to live. Check out the details of Niche’s methodology.

The list features college towns, suburbs, and cities. Many are appealing for varied reasons—from their safe environments and commitment to education to their proximity to the cultural attractions of an urban area and nearby wilderness for hiking and skiing. Some grew popular when a major company moved in, boosting local job opportunities. Some are especially quaint and historical, while others have been experiencing tech booms.

Whether you are looking to relocate, just daydreaming about a change of scenery, or curious to see if your hometown is mentioned, take a look at the American towns and cities that have earned their spot—and read why—on our list of the top 50 places to live in the U.S.

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#50. Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin

- Population: 13,972
- Population that owns a home: 81%
- Population that rents a home: 19%
- Median household income: $124,397

This Milwaukee suburb offers residents a combination of small-town living and close access to big-city amenities. Residents have a selection of over 300 local businesses within the safe, family-friendly village, and high-quality schools. Whitefish Bay also has a growing art community with its annual Whitefish Bay Art Festival.

 

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#49. Short Pump, Virginia

- Population: 28,328
- Population that owns a home: 57%
- Population that rents a home: 43%
- Median household income: $107,321

Short Pump, Virginia, is less than 10 miles from Richmond, Virginia, and slightly more than 100 miles from Washington, D.C. It has an open-air mall for shopping, parkland with picnic facilities, spray fountains, athletic fields, and a restored 1902 two-room schoolhouse. Its name is traced back to a short-handled water pump at a local tavern where stagecoach drivers would stop in the early 1800s.

 

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#48. Arlington, Virginia

- Population: 233,464
- Population that owns a home: 43%
- Population that rents a home: 57%
- Median household income: $120,071

The Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery are two of the most-visited spots in Arlington, Virginia, but this city has much more to offer. George Mason University law school and satellite campuses for the University of Virginia are located in Arlington. Amazon chose Arlington for its East Coast headquarters and is expected to create 25,000 jobs over the next decade.

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#47. Mount Lebanon Township, Pennsylvania

- Population: 32,303
- Population that owns a home: 72%
- Population that rents a home: 28%
- Median household income: $100,011

Mt. Lebanon Township, Pennsylvania, takes pride in its tree-lined sidewalks, nature trails, outdoor swim center, tennis courts, and ice rink. The Pittsburgh suburb’s name is derived from two cedar trees brought back by a local preacher who visited Lebanon and planted them in front of his home in the mid-1800s.

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#46. Princeton Junction, New Jersey

- Population: 2,336
- Population that owns a home: 82%
- Population that rents a home: 18%
- Median household income: $231,094

Princeton Junction, an affluent area, has a suburban feel with low crime rates and highly rated schools. Residents have close access to grocery stores, restaurants, playgrounds, and theme parks. As of December 2021, the average cost for a home in Princeton Junction was $650,000.

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#45. Madeira, Ohio

- Population: 9,147
- Population that owns a home: 88%
- Population that rents a home: 12%
- Median household income: $117,944

Madeira, Ohio, is a suburb of Cincinnati, where Procter & Gamble is the area’s largest industry and employer. Madeira’s cost of living is slightly higher than the national average, and its population has grown nearly 7% since 2010. Its spending on schools is slightly higher than the national average, and its student-to-teacher ratio is lower than that of the rest of the country.

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#44. Cinco Ranch, Texas

- Population: 16,437
- Population that owns a home: 83%
- Population that rents a home: 17%
- Median household income: $141,752

There are pools for everyone in the family to enjoy inside the planned community of Cinco Ranch in Katy, Texas. Residents also take advantage of a golf club and several trails and parks. Home-price values in Katy—which include part of Cinco Ranch—have skyrocketed in the Houston suburb.

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#43. Narberth, Pennsylvania

- Population: 4,345
- Population that owns a home: 63%
- Population that rents a home: 37%
- Median household income: $110,300

For those looking for a tight-knit community, Narbeth, a suburb just a few miles west of Philadelphia, may be the ideal place for you. Narbeth gives small-town vibes but boasts big-city living at the same time. There’s a centrally located business district; several colleges and universities such as Villanova University, St. Joseph’s University, and Bryn Mawr College; and an array of historical properties from as early as the 1800s.

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#42. Innsbrook, Virginia

- Population: 8,888
- Population that owns a home: 57%
- Population that rents a home: 43%
- Median household income: $91,457

Innsbrook, Virginia, is a mixed-use community with recreation, residences, office spaces, lakes, and trails. It was founded in 1979 on 850 acres of undeveloped rural land not far from Richmond, Virginia.

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#41. Decatur, Georgia

- Population: 24,002
- Population that owns a home: 66%
- Population that rents a home: 34%
- Median household income: $106,088

European settlers originally moved onto farmland in Decatur, Georgia, in the 19th century, but today the town is known for its commuters into Atlanta. Decatur’s schools are some of the best in the state, and Emory University is nearby.

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#40. Troy, Michigan

- Population: 83,989
- Population that owns a home: 74%
- Population that rents a home: 26%
- Median household income: $101,882

Numerous Troy Recreation Department events—including the Halloween 5K run and Winter Wonderland—provide a communal feel to this growing suburb of Detroit. Oakland/Troy Airport serves business travelers, while Interstate 75 leads directly into Detroit. The Stage Nature Center is a hub for all things outdoors in Troy, Michigan.

 

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#39. Boalsburg, Pennsylvania

- Population: 4,642
- Population that owns a home: 82%
- Population that rents a home: 18%
- Median household income: $105,891

Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, situated near Penn State University, is a picturesque small town filled with Victorian-style homes and quaint shops. It is considered the birthplace of the Memorial Day holiday, and each year the town hosts a celebration that attracts thousands of visitors.

 

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#38. The Woodlands, Texas

- Population: 113,819
- Population that owns a home: 71%
- Population that rents a home: 29%
- Median household income: $122,634

A short drive from Sugar Land, Texas, The Woodlands beats out its neighbor with a community of villages developed specifically around good schools, nature, and prime housing. Halliburton and Chevron are among the companies with large campuses in The Woodlands. Recreationally, a koi garden and boathouse are just two of the highlights in the city.

 

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#37. Cayuga Heights, New York

- Population: 3,689
- Population that owns a home: 52%
- Population that rents a home: 48%
- Median household income: $112,917

Oftentimes, small towns are heavily occupied by families. Cayuga Heights, however—an affluent, miniature suburb of Ithaca—has a mix of young professionals and retirees. There’s something for everyone, from restaurants to cafes and boutique shops nearby at Ithaca Commons.

 

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#36. Coppell, Texas

- Population: 41,645
- Population that owns a home: 72%
- Population that rents a home: 28%
- Median household income: $122,340

Amazon and Samsung are two major corporations with facilities in Coppell, Texas. With an easy commute to Dallas and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Coppell became a hopping business hub. Coppell has also won numerous awards for promoting healthy living, schools, and recreational opportunities for kids.

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#35. Alpharetta, Georgia

- Population: 65,590
- Population that owns a home: 66%
- Population that rents a home: 34%
- Median household income: $113,802

Near Atlanta, Alpharetta, Georgia, is home to the park-like Ameris Bank Amphitheatre for concerts; Wills Park Equestrian Center, which spans 50 acres; and the Big Creek Greenway, a wildlife-filled conservation park for jogging, biking, and inline skating. Alpharetta City Center is a 26-acre locale that includes the downtown historic district, shops, restaurants, office space, luxury apartments, and green space.

 

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#34. Brighton, New York

- Population: 36,272
- Population that owns a home: 55%
- Population that rents a home: 45%
- Median household income: $75,807

A suburb of Rochester, New York, Brighton is family-friendly and more than half of its families have children under 18 years old. It gets top reviews for its amenities, schools, job opportunities, and low crime. As to affordability, its median real estate prices are lower than the rest of the state. Average test scores at public schools are 22% higher than the national average, and two-thirds of the residents have a bachelor’s degree.

 

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#33. Cascades, Virginia

- Population: 11,389
- Population that owns a home: 77%
- Population that rents a home: 23%
- Median household income: $151,111

Suburban Cascades, Virginia, is home to many families and young professionals, and it’s an easy commute to Washington, D.C. The public schools are highly rated, and nearly one-third of residents have a master’s degree or higher.

 

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#32. South Kensington, Maryland

- Population: 8,763
- Population that owns a home: 89%
- Population that rents a home: 11%
- Median household income: $180,000

South Kensington sits on the Potomac River between southern Maryland and northern Virginia, with easy access to Washington D.C. Homes are expensive, and the prices have appreciated nearly four times the national average in the past decade. Two-thirds of residents commute to work by car, and their average commute one-way is just over 30 minutes.

 

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#31. Great Neck Gardens, New York

- Population: 1,150
- Population that owns a home: 91%
- Population that rents a home: 9%
- Median household income: $218,603

Great Neck Gardens, located in Nassau County, is a small village with high-earning residents and a solid workforce. The village consists of educated, professional adults and is ideal for families, with its good public school system and high rate of homeownership. This somewhat coastal village, where parts of it touch the ocean, also offers waterfront scenery in some areas.

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#30. North Bethesda, Maryland

- Population: 49,872
- Population that owns a home: 52%
- Population that rents a home: 48%
- Median household income: $107,220

Several nonprofits are headquartered in North Bethesda, Maryland, including the Society of American Foresters. North Bethesda’s high schools post high rankings in state surveys, while Georgetown Preparatory School is one of the oldest boarding schools in the United States. Residents who work in the Washington D.C., area have a short commute into the nation’s capital.

 

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#29. Shaker Heights, Ohio

- Population: 27,387
- Population that owns a home: 63%
- Population that rents a home: 37%
- Median household income: $87,235

Shaker Heights, a medium-sized Cleveland suburb, got its name from the North Union Shaker Community, and was originally known as the “Shaking Quakers,” a sect that would tremble during their religious services. The Shakers believed in communal property ownership and were against marriage.

Shaker Heights consists of wealthy young professionals and accounts for some of the most expensive real estate in all of Ohio.

 

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#28. Prairie Village, Kansas

- Population: 22,170
- Population that owns a home: 77%
- Population that rents a home: 23%
- Median household income: $91,136

A small shopping center built in 1947 started the ascent of Prairie Village, Kansas, to one of America’s best places to live. Today, a Village Vision Strategic Investment Plan is ensuring safe and steady growth for this Kansas City suburb. A 2018 citizen survey showed 99% of residents rated Prairie Village as an excellent or good place to live.

 

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#27. Jericho, New York

- Population: 13,889
- Population that owns a home: 87%
- Population that rents a home: 13%
- Median household income: $173,709

Jericho is a New York City suburb with highly ranked schools. The median income of residents is nearly three times the national average. But its median home value also is nearly three times higher than the rest of the country, and its median rent is twice as high as the rest of the country. Less than 30 miles from midtown Manhattan, it’s just over a one-hour commute by train or bus.

 

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#26. Olivette, Missouri

- Population: 7,849
- Population that owns a home: 71%
- Population that rents a home: 29%
- Median household income: $86,250

If you’re looking for places in Missouri, Olivette, a suburb of St. Louis, is an ideal neighborhood for families. There’s the perfect mix of good schools, low crime, educated residents and high homeownership, especially for single-family properties. Olivette is also diverse: 19% of the population is foreign-born, according to the most recent census data from 2021.

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#25. Fishers, Indiana

- Population: 90,332
- Population that owns a home: 78%
- Population that rents a home: 22%
- Median household income: $109,454

As this Indianapolis suburb has experienced rapid growth, schools in Fishers were the beneficiaries of heavy investment starting in 2018. Geist Reservoir is a popular recreation spot, and there is an annual renaissance fair. Several members of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers have resided in Fishers.

 

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#24. Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

- Population: 6,318
- Population that owns a home: 77%
- Population that rents a home: 23%
- Median household income: $107,778

In Swarthmore, a suburb of Philadelphia, crime rates are low, and schools are highly ranked. Public school test scores are 46% above the national average. But Swarthmore’s cost of living, driven by high housing prices, is 30% higher than the national average. It is home to prestigious Swarthmore College, founded in 1864 by Quakers.

 

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#23. Cary, North Carolina

- Population: 166,268
- Population that owns a home: 68%
- Population that rents a home: 32%
- Median household income: $104,669

Cary, located near North Carolina’s Research Triangle, has been called one of the safest cities in America by some outlets. The town hosts the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League, and USA Baseball’s national training complex. Cary has its own public transportation system with fixed-route and door-to-door service.

 

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#22. Long Grove, Illinois

- Population: 7,963
- Population that owns a home: 98%
- Population that rents a home: 2%
- Median household income: $214,073

Long Grove, the first historic district designated in the state of Illinois, has cobblestone walks and charming architecture that dates to the 1800s. Northwest of Chicago, the village recently renovated its one-lane covered bridge.

 

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#21. Clarendon Hills, Illinois

- Population: 8,716
- Population that owns a home: 84%
- Population that rents a home: 16%
- Median household income: $111,958

Suburban Clarendon Hills, Illinois, draws families and young professionals alike with its quality schools, low crime rates, and proximity to Chicago. The typical commute—more than 32 minutes—is longer than the national average. Most people use public transit to get to work.

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#20. Stone Ridge, Virginia

- Population: 14,220
- Population that owns a home: 87%
- Population that rents a home: 13%
- Median household income: $153,628

Stone Ridge, Virginia, is less than 40 miles from Washington D.C., and close to Dulles International Airport. Its housing stock features single-family homes, condominiums, and townhomes, and nearly nine out of 10 families own their homes. The town has a clubhouse with a fitness center, an amphitheater, three swimming pools, miles of walking trails, and the Loudoun County Gum Spring Library.

 

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#19. Santa Monica, California

- Population: 91,577
- Population that owns a home: 29%
- Population that rents a home: 71%
- Median household income: $96,570

The Santa Monica Pier is this coastal city’s iconic landmark, providing entertainment and scenic views for more than a century. A film festival and outdoor shopping attractions draw visitors and locals, who can arrive via Santa Monica Airport. In 2028, residents will watch beach volleyball and surfing competitions from the area during the Summer Olympics.

 

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#18. Morrisville, North Carolina

- Population: 26,280
- Population that owns a home: 48%
- Population that rents a home: 52%
- Median household income: $101,738

Technology company Lenovo has a giant headquarters in Morrisville, North Carolina, which makes sense given the town’s location within the state’s Research Triangle. Good public schools, the housing market, and jobs have put Morrisville atop lists of the best places to live.

 

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#17. North Potomac, Maryland

- Population: 23,914
- Population that owns a home: 84%
- Population that rents a home: 16%
- Median household income: $171,066

About 20 miles from Washington D.C., North Potomac, Maryland, has a low unemployment rate and a good housing market. It is home to elementary schools that are among the best in Maryland. During the spring and fall, trails throughout North Potomac become full of fitness enthusiasts.

 

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#16. Brentwood, Missouri

- Population: 8,005
- Population that owns a home: 64%
- Population that rents a home: 36%
- Median household income: $81,069

Brentwood, Missouri, residents tend to be white-collar professionals, many in computer and math fields. The Brentwood Ice Rink hosts the St. Louis Rockets, a youth hockey organization, and the St. Louis Skating Club, a figure skating club founded in 1932. It ranks among the top 10 school districts in the state. Real estate prices are high compared with the rest of Missouri.

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#15. Chesterfield, Missouri

- Population: 47,605
- Population that owns a home: 78%
- Population that rents a home: 22%
- Median household income: $113,315

While there are many nearby wonders in St. Louis, few of the big city’s attractions are as specific as the Butterfly House in Chesterfield, Missouri, a butterfly zoo that opened in 1998. One of Chesterfield’s most famous former residents is pitcher Max Scherzer, who won a World Series title with the Washington Nationals in 2019.

 

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#14. Great Neck Plaza, New York

- Population: 6,957
- Population that owns a home: 59%
- Population that rents a home: 41%
- Median household income: $92,260

Great Neck Plaza is home to educated, affluent professionals. The village is diverse, with foreign-born residents accounting for 29% of the population. For those who have to commute, local public transportation such as the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) is often used to get to work.

 

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#13. Ottawa Hills, Ohio

- Population: 4,450
- Population that owns a home: 86%
- Population that rents a home: 14%
- Median household income: $155,893

Ottawa Hills, Ohio, located near the University of Toledo in northwestern Ohio, gets high ratings for being family-friendly, safe, and quiet. But its cost of living and its home and rental prices are much higher than elsewhere in the state.

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#12. Oakwood, Ohio

- Population: 8,982
- Population that owns a home: 80%
- Population that rents a home: 20%
- Median household income: $112,917

Oakwood, a suburb of Dayton, offers convenience and has something for everyone with its close proximity to downtown dining and shopping options, places of worship, and parks with hiking trails. For those looking for a safe, tight-knit active community, most kids in Oakwood walk or ride their bikes to school and neighbors know each other by name. As of December 2021, the median sale price for Oakwood homes was $264,900, with most residents owning their own place.

 

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#11. Brookline, Massachusetts

- Population: 59,180
- Population that owns a home: 49%
- Population that rents a home: 51%
- Median household income: $117,326

Located outside of Boston, Brookline has its own puppet theater—the Puppet Showplace Theater. Visitors can also step inside John F. Kennedy’s childhood home. Comedian Conan O’Brien is among the noted graduates of Brookline High School.

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#10. Houserville, Pennsylvania

- Population: 1,972
- Population that owns a home: 82%
- Population that rents a home: 18%
- Median household income: $90,750

The tiny town of Houserville is close to Penn State University. It has a rural feel, and its housing prices are not much higher than the national average. Students attend State College Area High School, rated the best high school in the county, and the elementary schools are also rated high nationally.

 

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#9. Ardmore, Pennsylvania

- Population: 12,808
- Population that owns a home: 59%
- Population that rents a home: 41%
- Median household income: $96,780

Ardmore is an affluent, historic suburb of Philadelphia. One of the first shopping centers in the country, its Suburban Square, opened in 1928. There’s also shopping at Lancaster Avenue and nearby streets, and a farmers market. Five weekends each year, Ardmore hosts the Clover Market of vintage and artisanal goods, and each year it hosts its Ardmore Restaurant Week and Ardmore Oktoberfest.

 

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#8. Clayton, Missouri

- Population: 16,588
- Population that owns a home: 59%
- Population that rents a home: 41%
- Median household income: $107,596

Clayton, Missouri’s restaurants specialize in pastries, with doughnuts a favorite among locals. Various dog parks, camps, and the Historic Hanley House museum are notable points of interest in town. Washington University—one of the Midwest’s most prestigious higher education institutions—has a property in Clayton.

 

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#7. Holly Hills, Colorado

- Population: 2,835
- Population that owns a home: 97%
- Population that rents a home: 3%
- Median household income: $132,955

Holly Hills, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, gets top reviews as a place to raise a family and a place to retire. It’s walkable and diverse, with good public schools. Nearly all its homes are older, built between 1940 and 1969, and many have four or more bedrooms. Downtown Denver is easily accessible by light rail.

 

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#6. Los Alamos, New Mexico

- Population: 12,666
- Population that owns a home: 67%
- Population that rents a home: 33%
- Median household income: $116,116

Los Alamos is known as the birthplace of the atom bomb, but that in no way detracts from its charm and livability. It has more than 300 days of sunshine each year, easy access to wilderness mesas, mountains, and canyons, and a thriving arts scene. Its schools have been named the best in the state, and jobs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory draw highly educated and innovative people to the area.

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#5. Richmond Heights, Missouri

- Population: 8,500
- Population that owns a home: 56%
- Population that rents a home: 44%
- Median household income: $82,261

Located near St. Louis, Richmond Heights, Missouri, is filled with stately older homes, mostly built before World War II. Most working residents are white-collar professionals, although it also has a remarkably high number of resident artists, designers, and members of the media. More than 70% of adults have a four-year college degree, master’s degree, doctorate, or degrees in medicine or law, compared with a national average of less than 22%.

 

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#4. Carmel, Indiana

- Population: 97,464
- Population that owns a home: 76%
- Population that rents a home: 24%
- Median household income: $112,765

In recent years, Carmel, Indiana, has been recognized as the best place to raise a family in Indiana, one of America’s safest cities, and the best place to launch a career. Besides being Niche’s best place to live in America, Carmel, an Indianapolis suburb, has a serene Japanese garden.

 

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#3. Okemos, Michigan

- Population: 24,141
- Population that owns a home: 61%
- Population that rents a home: 39%
- Median household income: $78,600

Named after a Chippewa chief, Okemos is a favored settling site for employees and visitors of nearby Michigan State University. The Okemos schools are diverse and among the best ranked in Michigan. A short drive away, Potter Park Zoo is a favored attraction for children. Art and architecture admirers can also marvel at the Goetsch–Winckler House in Okemos.

 

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#2. Penn Wynne, Pennsylvania

- Population: 5,932
- Population that owns a home: 87%
- Population that rents a home: 13%
- Median household income: $123,854

In the leafy Philadelphia suburb of Penn Wynne, public school test scores are 81% higher than the national average, and all but 1.5% of its students graduate high school. Crime rates are extremely low. But the cost of living is high, pushed up in particular by home values that are 95% higher than the U.S. average.

 

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#1. Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania

- Population: 4,800
- Population that owns a home: 77%
- Population that rents a home: 23%
- Median household income: $130,000

Residents enjoy top-quality schools, parklands, quiet streets, and safety in Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania, a suburb that’s about a 30-minute drive from Philadelphia. It’s adjacent to Valley Forge National Historical Park, the site of the 1777-1778 winter encampment of George Washington and the Continental Army. During that time, the ragtag soldiers trained to become a disciplined and unified force.

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