The 20 best places to live in the US

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New List Claims These Are the Best Places to Live in the US

Americans will move across the country for just about anything – be it for a job, to be closer to a loved one or just to get a little more sun. While the initial reason for a move to a new city will vary from person to person, the location's job market, affordability and overall quality of life are a few of the characteristics to consider before the movers are called. U.S. News Best Places to Live examines a variety of factors, from job market to quality of life, that ultimately determine which of the country's largest metro areas would be more suitable for more people.

Click through to explore the 20 best places to live:

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The 20 best places to live in the US

20. Portland, Oregon

Metro Population: 2,288,796 
Median Home Sale Price: $297,200
Median Annual Salary: $50,710 

This Oregon city known for its quirky residents and natural beauty is a highly sought-after destination, voted one of the most desirable cities in a U.S. News-commissioned Google Consumer Survey. While its population growth from net migration and job market are in the middle of the pack, Portland's widely known reputation for being a friendly, laidback city earns it a top spot in our rankings.

(Photo via Getty)

19. Charleston, South Carolina

Metro Population:697,281
Median Home Sale Price: $209,450
Median Annual Salary: $42,770

Also voted a highly desirable place to live, Charleston is rich in history and real estate – with historical homes and municipal buildings dating back to the 18th century. While it's less than a third of the size of the Portland area in population, Charleston's metro region has seen a significant number of people moving there in recent years, with the population growing more than 6 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

(Photo via Alamy)

18. Omaha, Nebraska

Metro Population: 886,157 
Median Home Sale Price: $139,000
Median Annual Salary: $43,330

Omaha has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the top 20, and with a short commute time, the area's residents don't spend much time in traffic. The Midwestern city has a low cost of living compared to its median annual salary, allowing people to keep a larger portion of their paychecks in their pockets. 

(Photo via Getty)

17. Houston, Texas

Metro Population: 6,204,141
Median Home Sale Price: $190,00
Median Annual Salary: $50,830

Houston ranks high in population growth from net migration – more than 300,000 people relocated to the Houston area between 2010 and 2014. With a healthy job market and decent cost of living compared to other metros of its size, Houston residents are some of the most satisfied with their lives in the country, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

(Photo via Getty)

16. San Diego, California

Metro Population: 3,183,143
Median Home Sale Price: $477,500
Median Annual Salary: $53,020

Southern California sun and warm temperatures are enough to entice many people, as San Diego ranks among the most desired places to live in the country. San Diego also ranks highly for students’ college readiness compared to other ranked metro areas. But the hot location and great education do come at a cost – San Diegans spend nearly 40 percent of their paychecks on living expenses.

(Photo via Getty)

15. Charlotte, North Carolina

Metro Population: 2,298,915
Median Home Sale Price: $184,600
Median Annual Salary: $48,290

The large number of people relocating to Charlotte and a relatively low cost of living compared to the area's median annual salary put the Queen City in the top 20. Gallup’s Well-Being Index also reveals Charlotte’s residents are on the whole more satisfied with their lives than most other metro areas in the country. But Charlotte’s not the only North Carolina city to rank highly for residents’ well-being – another spot in the state is even higher on the Best Places to Live list.

(Photo via Getty)

14. Sarasota, Florida

Metro Population: 722,784
Median Home Sale Price: $226,750
Median Annual Salary: $39,960

Sarasota's sunshine and prime location for retirees makes it a highly desired place to live, according to a U.S. News-commissioned Google Consumer Survey of people across the country. And people are acting on it. Sarasota has one of the highest rates of population growth from net migration out of all the metro areas in the top 20. The tourism industry doesn’t help the cost of living, though, with residents spending more than 38 percent of the median annual income on living expenses.

(Photo via Getty)

13. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Metro Population: 1,007,329
Median Home Sale Price: $149,475
Median Annual Salary: $41,350

This Michigan city avoids the traffic of larger cities, boasting a short average commute time. Other perks include a low crime rate and high college readiness scores among schoolchildren. Located a bit off the beaten path, roughly halfway between Chicago and Detroit, Grand Rapids’ low cost of living means residents are only spending about 28 percent of the median annual income on necessary expenses.

(Photo via Getty)

12. Minneapolis

Metro Population: 3,424,786
Median Home Sale Price: $218,250
Median Annual Salary: $52,080

Minneapolis scores well for its job market, being home to several Fortune 500 companies, including Target Corp. It’s also home to the Skyway, an indoor walkway connecting commercial buildings throughout the downtown area, allowing people to travel throughout the city without having to go outside during the cold winter months. In addition to high employment rates, the cost of living compared to income is low. The area’s low rates of property and violent crime help to push it further up the list.

(Photo via Getty)

11. Des Moines, Iowa

Metro Population: 590,741
Median Home Sale Price: $169,550
Median Annual Salary: $46,600

With a low cost of living, Des Moines ranks the second highest for value in the country, bested only by the No. 3 overall city on our list of Best Places to Live. The Iowa capital has had solid population growth through net migration in recent years, bolstered by an unemployment rate below 4 percent, a low crime rate and short commute time.

(Photo via Getty)

10. San Jose, California

Metro Population: 1,898,457
Median Home Sale Price: $777,600
Median Annual Salary: $75,770

The capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose reigns supreme for its job market and median annual salary. The area also scores highly for its schools, with the fourth highest college readiness scores of the 100 metro regions ranked. But those quality schools come at a hefty price – San Jose is one of the most expensive places to live in the country. Even with higher average salaries, the cost of living means residents are spending a larger portion of their paycheck and saving less.

(Photo via Getty)

9. San Francisco, California

Metro Population: 4,466,251
Median Home Sale Price: $646,250
Median Annual Salary: $69,350

With a healthy job market and high salaries, San Francisco’s connection to the tech industry makes it a sought-after destination for startups and new employees alike, ranking seventh for desirability out of the 100 metro areas considered. The schools in the metro region are also some of the best ranked in the country, putting San Francisco in the fourth slot for college readiness. However, San Francisco beats out San Jose for higher cost of living, and residents have less disposable income. 

(Photo via Alamy)

8. Washington, D.C.

Metro Population: 5,863,608
Median Home Sale Price: $375,700
Median Annual Salary: $65,890

The nation’s capital ranks third for its job market, following only San Jose and San Francisco, and has the third highest median annual salary. The Washington area’s schools have a high average college readiness score as well, though the region is also one of the costliest in the country to live in, and it has the second worst commute of the 100 ranked metro areas.

(Photo via Getty)

7. Seattle, Washington

Metro Population: 3,557,037
Median Home Sale Price: $362,468
Median Annual Salary: $59,130

Home to business giants Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft, it’s no question Seattle is one of the highest-ranking metro areas for its job market. Long a destination for those in the tech industry, Seattle was voted one of the top 10 most desirable cities. Seattle’s proximity to Puget Sound and mountains to the east make it a top spot to visit for tourists throughout the year.

(Photo via Shutterstock)

6. Boise, Idaho

Metro Population: 639,616
Median Home Sale Price: $232,500
Median Annual Salary: $41,550

Idaho’s most populous city is also the least dangerous of the 100 ranked metro areas, with the lowest combined violent and property crime rates, per the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting. While it’s smaller than most cities in the top 20, Boise has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the top 10 and is one of the most affordable as well.

(Photo via Alamy)

5. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Metro Population: 669,070
Median Home Sale Price: $221,725
Median Annual Salary: $46,520

Highly desired by people surveyed across the country – beat out only by Honolulu – Colorado Springs isn’t the only city in the Centennial State to make it into the top five. Though it has the slowest population growth from net migration of all the 10 highest ranking metro areas, Colorado Springs is one of the most affordable for residents, allowing the median annual salary to go further than other cities.

(Photo via Getty)

4. Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

Metro Population: 1,714,629
Median Home Sale Price: $215,730
Median Annual Salary: $50,310

Thanks to the likes of Duke University’s nationally and regionally ranked health system, the Raleigh-Durham metro area has exceptional health care quality and availability. In addition to Duke University, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill and more than a dozen other colleges in the area make it a hub for academics and college-age residents, helping earn the area its title as the Research Triangle. Raleigh-Durham also has the second highest population growth from net migration of those cities in the top 10.

(Photo via Getty)

3. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Metro Population: 483,396
Median Home Sale Price: $177,200
Median Annual Salary: $42,410

Fayetteville beat out every other city on the list in value – meaning it’s the most affordable for residents compared to the average income. Fayetteville edges out the busier cities in the top 20 with a short average commute time to work, a big factor in quality of life for people surveyed. Home to the University of Arkansas and the Wal-Mart headquarters, Fayetteville is the fastest-growing city in Arkansas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

(Photo via Getty)

2. Austin, Texas

Metro Population: 1,835,016
Median Home Sale Price: $240,000
Median Annual Salary: $48,150

The capital of Texas has seen major growth in recent years, with a 9 percent population growth rate from migration between 2010 and 2014. With an increasing level of technology startups and a growing job market, the host of the annual SXSW festival is seeing an influx of younger generations, attracted by the common slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.” Austin came in as a very close second to the No. 1 spot on U.S. News Best Places to Live, coming in less than one-tenth of a point behind the top city.

(Photo via Getty)

1. Denver, Colorado

Metro Population: 2,651,392
Median Home Sale Price: $301,300
Median Annual Salary: $53,060

The Mile High City is a burgeoning tech hub and a popular destination for millennials looking to start their careers. Voted the fourth most desirable city in a survey of people from across the country, Denver has one of the healthiest job markets in the country and has an above-average median annual salary, which goes further than in more expensive cities like Austin, Raleigh-Durham or Seattle.

(Photo via Getty)

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