In a new study, SmartAsset set out to uncover the most livable small cities in the U.S. To do so, we analyzed data for 275 cities with populations between 65,000 and 100,000 people. Our findings show Queen Creek ranked among the 10 most livable small cities in America.
For some, the hustle and bustle of big-city living can be overwhelming, but the slow pace of life in a rural small town may not provide enough excitement. Luckily, America is dotted with small cities – places with populations between 65,000 and 100,000 people – that provide the best of both worlds. These cities often have many of the same amenities found in large metropolises but offer a lower cost of living.
To see which small cities are most livable, SmartAsset analyzed data for 275 small cities. We compared these cities across various metrics related to dining and entertainment, healthcare, employment and poverty, healthcare, and average commute times.
• Small cities in Washington and Michigan dominate the top 10. Half of the 10 most livable small cities are located in either Washington or Michigan, including the top two: Redmond and Sammamish, WA. Novi, MI places third, while Kirkland, WA and Farmington Hills, MI also make the grade.
• Seven of the 10 highest unemployment rates are in California cities. Tulare and Merced have 9.7% unemployment as of April 2023. Madera, Turlock, Manteca, Lodi, and Traci also place among the top ten highest unemployment rates, at 5.8% or higher. Meanwhile, Detroit and D.C. areas offer particularly low unemployment rates.
• Residents in these Midwestern cities save 6 percentage points more of their income thanks to low housing costs. These cities require less than 17% of the local median income to maintain housing: Lakeville and Maple Grove, MN; Livonia, Novi and Farmington Hills, MI; and Shawnee, KS. Meanwhile, the average housing costs across all small cities takes up 22.87% of local median incomes.
• D.C. and LA suburbs have some of the worst commute times. While the longest average commute is 43.6 minutes in Poinciana, FL, residents of Apple Valley, Lake Elsinore, and Chino, CA also frequent the top 10. Similarly, Waldorf, MD and Dale City, VA, place 5th and 9th.
• No Southern city cracks the top 10. Alpharetta, Georgia, is the most livable small city in the South at No. 13. This Atlanta suburb ranks highest among all southern cities. Only one other city in the region – Johns Creek, Georgia – ranks in the top 30 most livable small cities.
Top 10 Most Livable Small Cities
1. Redmond, WA
Redmond, home to approximately 76,000 people, ranks as the most livable small city in America. Only 1.93% of residents don’t have health insurance, which gives Redmond the 10th-lowest uninsured rate across our study. This Seattle suburb also ranks 24th for bars. Meanwhile, housing costs are 17.77% of the median household income – lower than almost 90% of cities evaluated.
2. Sammamish, WA
Sammamish, located about 20 miles east of Seattle, has the third-lowest percentage of residents living below the poverty level (2.5%). Average housing costs eat up just 17.12% of the median income in Sammamish, which is less than 93% of the cities that we evaluated. Meanwhile, only 2.52% of residents in this city of over 66,000 people don’t have health insurance (20th best).
3. Novi, MI
Novi, which has the third-lowest unemployment rate across our study (1.6%), is also home to one of Michigan’s largest shopping destinations, Twelve Oaks Mall. Average housing costs in this Detroit suburb comprise just 16.66% of the median income, which ranks eighth lowest among all 275 cities we studied.
4. Newton, MA
Only 1.05% of Newton residents don’t have health insurance – third lowest across our study. Located about 11 miles west of Boston, Newton also has the ninth-lowest percentage of residents living below the poverty line (3.4%). Housing costs add up to just 17.34% of the median household income, which is better than nearly 92% of the cities we evaluated.
5. Arlington Heights, IL
Arlington Heights ranks highly for its number of bars, restaurants and healthcare facilities. Located about 25 northwest of Chicago, Arlington Heights ranks third overall for bars, 15th for both dining and entertainment establishments and 17th for healthcare facilities. Specifically, the city’s Metropolis Performing Arts Centre is well-regarded for its production of plays, musicals, concerts and other events.
6. Palo Alto, CA
Less than 1% of people in Palo Alto don’t have health insurance, giving this Silicon Valley city the highest coverage rate across our study. Home to more than 66,000 people, Palo Alto ranks 40th for dining establishments and 45th for healthcare facilities. The city is also home to prestigious Stanford University.
7. Kirkland, WA
The third of three Seattle suburbs in the top 10, Kirkland is located on the shores of Lake Washington and offers a plethora of water-based recreational activities. This city, with more than 92,000 people, ranks 28th for bars and 41st for dining establishments, both of which help boost its livability score.
8. Farmington Hills, MI
Farmington Hills, located due east of Novi, is tied for the third-lowest unemployment rate (which is measured at the county level). Housing costs in this city of 83,000 people are also relatively affordable, comprising just 16.67% of the median household income (10th lowest). Lastly, the city ranks 21st overall for health insurance coverage, as only 2.59% of residents go without it.
9. Maple Grove, MN
Maple Grove, located approximately 17 miles northwest of Minneapolis, has the seventh-lowest housing costs compared to the median income (16.57%). Only 2.41% of residents don’t have health insurance (15th lowest), while just 4% of people live below the poverty line (16th lowest).
T-10. Queen Creek, AZ
Queen Creek, a city of nearly 70,000 people southeast of Phoenix, has the fourth-lowest poverty rate across our study (2.7%). Queen Creek also ranks 16th for healthcare establishments and 20th for entertainment establishments. People who call Queen Creek home have easy access to the San Tan Mountain Regional Park, which features miles of hiking and biking trails across thousands of acres of Sonoran desert.
T-10. Troy, MI
Like Novi and Farmington Hills, Troy is located in Oakland County, Michigan, which has the third-lowest unemployment rate across our study. Average housing costs are just 17.05% of the median household income, lower than nearly 94% of the cities we studied.