Where the middle class thrives

These eight places have low unemployment, a good quality of life and decent incomes, according to government data compiled by CNNMoney and nonprofits Opportunity Nation and Measure of America.

Rensselaer County, New York

middle class thrive troy
  • Population: 159,395
  • Median household Income: $54,550
  • Unemployment rate: 5.6%

Located right next to Albany, the capital of New York state, Rensselaer county has a fair share of people that work in state government.

Like many regions of the Northeast, the area struggled to replace the textile and other industries that long ago fled for cheaper locales. But unlike some other places, Rensselaer county seems to be succeeding.

In the county's largest town, Troy, locals credit the rejuvenation of the downtown area with attracting both young people and retirees who want to live in a more walkable, urban setting.

Technology is another one of the area's many attributes.

"There's a tech valley drive in the Hudson Valley," said J.J. Williams, chair of entrepreneurship at Hudson Valley Community College.

Several tech firms have sprung up in the region, including chip maker GlobalFoundries, which recently opened a giant facility just north of Troy. The area's many colleges, including Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, are given a lot of the credit for the turnaround.

Source: Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Education
In addition to the above statistics, CNNMoney worked with the nonprofits Opportunity Nation and Measure of America and considered inequality levels, preschool enrollment, college degree attainment, housing costs, violent crime rates, school drop out rates and access to banks, doctors and grocery stores in compiling this list -- which is not all inclusive but rather a sampling of towns across the country. To qualify, the county needed to be at least 20 miles from a large city and have a population over 10,000. In addition, the median household income needed to be close to the national average, and the county had to beat the national average in the areas of unemployment, poverty and inequality levels. Unemployment levels are for December, the most current available at the county level.
  @hargreavesCNN - Last updated February 20 2014 06:22 PM ET

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