Although Americans seem to love Phoenix, they either love or hate the Grand Canyon State. Arizona was voted the seventh-most desirable state AND the ninth-least desirable state, according to research from Home Bay. But people love Phoenix. Home Bay surveyed 1,000 Americans across the U.S. and they voted Phoenix as the sixth most desirable city in America.
The distribution of people across the U.S. isn’t uniform. Some Americans choose to live in bustling cities, while others prefer spacious suburbs or slow-paced towns in the rural countryside.
Where Americans choose to live depends on individual preferences, as well as a variety of environmental, economic, and social factors.
Although some people have more choice in deciding where to plant roots, a majority (81%) are satisfied with their location, according to our study of 1,000 Americans.
But that’s never stopped Americans from chasing new opportunities or pursuing an even better life for themselves. From the Oklahoma Land Rush of the 1880s to the “Green Rush” more than a century later, Americans have a long tradition of geographic mobility.
To learn more about where Americans really want to live, we asked them what they consider the most (and least) desirable city, state, and region in the U.S.
We discovered what makes a great place to live, according to Americans — with surprising results — and what would prompt them to pack up their lives and move to a new location.
Best places to live and most desirable city statistics
• More than 80% of Americans like where they live, but 92% say they could be convinced to move to another city or state. Of those who aren’t happy where they live, more than half (52%) say they can’t afford to move.
• More than three-fourths of Americans (76%) live in urban or suburban areas, but more would trade city life for a rural home. About one-fourth of Americans (24%) currently live in rural areas, but nearly one-third (30%) would prefer to live there.
• A majority of Americans agree that high crime rates (58%), expensive living costs (56%), and high population density (51%) make a city undesirable or overrated.
• Americans consider Virginia Beach the most desirable and most underrated city in the U.S. You either love or hate Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle: All three cities make the list of the top 10 most- and least-desirable cities. Phoenix, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Richmond round out the top five most underrated cities.
• Los Angeles is the least desirable and most overrated city. L.A. is followed on the least-desirable list by Birmingham, San Francisco, Detroit, and New York. San Francisco, New York, Dallas, and Miami also made the most overrated list.
• Florida is the most desirable state in the country, followed by California, Texas, Hawaii, and Colorado.
• Despite ranking as the No. 2 best state to live, California is also the least desirable state — even more than 1 in 4 Californians say it’s one of the five worst in the U.S. Alabama, New York, Alaska, Texas, and Arkansas round out the list of most undesirable states.
• The most desirable region in the U.S. is the South Atlantic consisting of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The least desirable region is the East South Central consisting of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
10 Most Desirable Cities to Live
1. Virginia Beach, VA
2. Seattle, WA
3. San Diego, CA
4. Los Angeles, CA
5. San Francisco, CA
6. Phoenix, AZ
7. Denver, CO
8. Miami, FL
9. Nashville, TN
10. Tampa, FL
Of the 50 most-populous U.S. cities, Americans say Virginia Beach is the most desirable city — 1 in 5 respondents (21%) list Virginia Beach in their top five.
Virginia Beach may not have the fame of other beach towns, such as Miami or San Diego, but with 35 miles of coastline, fascinating museums, and plenty of fresh food, it has many of the same great things to do for a fraction of the cost.
In fact, Virginia Beach is the only city in the top five most desirable that has a regional price parity (96) below the national average (100).
Although Americans say affordability is what makes a city desirable, the other four cities in the top five are some of the most expensive in the country. Most notably, in San Francisco, the cost of goods exceeds the national average by 17% while the typical home value has hit $1.6 million — 2.5x higher than the studied city average ($449,718).
Rising costs are forcing many Americans to flee the most expensive cities. Of the top five most-desirable cities, only Seattle has experienced population growth in the past five years.
Although these cities may be desirable for their attractions and amenities, money tends to have a greater influence over Americans’ actions.
10 Least Desirable Cities to Live
1. Los Angeles, CA
2. Birmingham, AL
3. San Francisco, CA
4. Detroit, MI
5. New York, NY
6. Chicago, IL
7. Seattle, WA
8. Dallas, TX and Milwaukee, WI*
10. Washington, D.C.
*indicates a tie
Nearly 1 in 5 Americans (19%) think Los Angeles is one of the top five best places to live, but the City of Angels isn’t as glamorous as it may seem to some.
A greater percentage of Americans (27%) consider Los Angeles the least desirable place to live in the U.S. It was the No. 1 choice among respondents of all generations, with more than one-third of boomers (34%) ranking it at the bottom.
Those who aren’t blinded by the glare of the Hollywood lights suffocate under a smog of overpriced despair. The cost of living is nearly 12% higher than the national average, and average home values nearing $1 million are more than 2x the average across all cities studied ($449,718). Although Beverly Hills is often considered the best neighborhood in Los Angeles, its celebrity-occupied properties and glamorous amenities are completely out of reach for average residents.
With an unemployment rate of 4.6% — 25% higher than the national average (3.7%) — residents are left California dreamin’ about how to afford the L.A. lifestyle.
As a result, more than 638,000 residents have migrated from Los Angeles in the past five years. That’s more than any other city in the U.S. besides New York.
Los Angeles is joined in the bottom 10 by two other cities, San Francisco and Seattle, that Americans simultaneously love and hate. But unlike L.A. and San Francisco, Seattle has far less haters.
About 21% of Americans ranked Seattle as one of the best places to live, while only 16% ranked it as one of the worst places to live.