4. Johnston, IA
Johnston, IA
Median home price: $181,000
Median family income: $118,055

Local crime news for Johnston is telling: A recent headline proclaimed that a driver for a trash collection company spilled garbage on the highway and was issued a citation.

While many of the law-abiding locals work in nearby Des Moines, Johnston boasts plenty of its own big employers, including Pioneer Hi-Bred, Iowa Public Television and John Deere Financial.

That's helped the area's economy to keep hitting on all cylinders, with unemployment in the metro area under 6% -- more than three points better than the national rate.

And, while Johnston's population has quadrupled over the past 20 years, it's still a place where, "neighbors know and care about the children and families next door," said Mayor Paula Dierenfeld. Other bonuses: "Quality neighborhoods and an excellent school system." 

See complete data and interactive map for Johnston


Last updated August 15 2011: 2:48 PM ET
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These terrific small towns -- even now -- boast great job opportunities, top-notch schools, safe streets, economic strength, and more.

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