Money's list of America's best small cities


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9. Ames, IA
Ames
WINNER
Top 100 rank: 9
Population: 60,000
Unemployment: 4.3%
Compare Ames to Top 10 Best Places
Unemployment at 4.3%? That's not a misprint: Ames is the home of Iowa State University, which employs 9,000, and there are lots of biotech and agriculture jobs nearby. Like many states, Iowa has trimmed university funding, but the school has not had to make drastic cuts.

If the people who live here get bored, they have only themselves to blame. Besides Iowa State's cultural and athletic offerings, Ames boasts 36 parks, a bustling shopping district, and a new aquatic center.

Sports are big in this town: The high school boys basketball team, girls tennis team, and girls golf team are state champions. But the friendliness of the community is what newcomers tend to remark upon most.

Says Craig McFarland, 55, a financial adviser who moved here with his family in 2006: "Our first day, a neighbor came over with cookies." --Anne Lee

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Is Ames a great town, or what?
Ames stats
  City stats Best places avg.
Median family income
(per year)
$77,690 $90,957
Job growth %
(2000-2009)*
15.84% 15.71%
See jobs near Ames
Median home price $175,0001 $239,391
See Ames homes for sale
Test scores reading
(% above/below state average)
25.9% 22.9%
Test scores math
(% above/below average)
19.5% 22.9%
Personal crime incidents (per 1,000) 3 2
Property crime incidents (per 1,000) 27 24
Restaurants
(within 15 miles)
188 2,967
High temp in July ° F 84.2° 86.2°
Low temp in Jan ° F 8.7° 21.3°
Median age 26.2 35.3
Financial City stats Best places avg.
Median family income
(per year)
$77,690 $90,957
Family purchasing power
(annual, cost-of-living adjusted)
$83,448 $86,860
State sales tax 6.00% 5.45%
State income tax rate
(highest bracket)
8.98%I 7.35%
State income tax rate
(lowest bracket)
0.36%I 2.96%
Auto insurance premiums
(Average price quotes, for the state)
$1,204 $1,707
Job growth %
(2000-2009)*
15.84% 15.71%
See jobs near Ames
Housing
Median home price $175,0001 $239,391
Average property taxes
(2009)
$2,469 $3,418
See Ames homes for sale
Education
Colleges, universities and
professional schools (within 30 miles)
5 25
Test scores reading
(% above/below state average)
25.9% 22.9%
Test scores math
(% above/below average)
19.5% 22.9%
% students attending public/private
schools (located within town limits)
94.3/5.7 87.8/12.2
Quality of life
Air quality index*
(% of days AQI ranked as good)
99.0% 77.8%
Personal crime incidents (per 1,000) 3 2
Property crime incidents (per 1,000) 27 24
Median commute time (in minutes) 12.0 21.4
% population with commute
45 mins. or longer
6.4% 13.6%
% population walk or bike to work 15.9% 3.6%
Leisure and culture
Movie theaters
(within 15 miles)
4 31
Restaurants
(within 15 miles)
188 2,967
Bars
(within 15 miles)
32 207
Public golf courses
(within 30 miles)
56 162
Libraries
(within 15 miles)
16 72
Museums (accredited by AAM;
within 30 miles)
2 10
Ski resorts (within 100 miles) 4 12
Arts funding (Dollars per person of state funds spent on arts) 0.8 1.5
Weather
Annual rainfall
(inches)
34.52 37.40
% clear days in the area 29 29
High temp in July ° F 84.2° 86.2°
Low temp in Jan ° F 8.7° 21.3°
Median age 26.2 35.3
Completed at least some college
(% of residents)
86.5% 71.5%
Married % 39.7% 56.6%
Divorced % 4.7% 8.4%
Racial diversity index
(100 is national average; higher numbers indicate greater diversity)
68.3 94.9
From the August 2010 issue
Notes: *County data

1 Price of typical single-family home

(I) Income tax notes:
16 states have statutory provision for automatic adjustment of tax brackets, personal exemption or standard deductions to the rate of inflation. Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio index the personal exemption amounts only.
Tax credits.
Galleries & video
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Find Your Best Places
Region
Northeast South
Midwest West
Ranking
Top 100 winners only
Population
8.4M
46,000
Home Prices
2009 median sales prices
$1.2M
$36K
Video
Using statistics from data provider Onboard Informatics, we crunched the numbers in order to zero in on America's best small cities for families. (Last year, we looked at small towns, with populations between 8,500 and 50,000.) More

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