Money's list of America's best small towns


FAQ and sources
How we picked the Best Places to Live
Using statistics from data services company Onboard Informatics, we crunched the numbers in order to zero in on America's best small towns for families. (Last year, we looked at small cities, with populations between 50,000 and 300,000.) Here's how:

3,570
Start with all U.S. towns that have a population of 8,500 to 50,000.

1,548
Screen out places with median family income more than 200% or less than 85% of the state median; those more than 95% white; and those with poor education and crime scores.

749
Exclude retirement communities and towns with major job losses. Rank the rest based on job growth, home affordability, safety, school quality, health care, arts and leisure, diversity, and several ease-of-living criteria.

100
Factor in more data on the economy (including fiscal strength of state and local governments), jobs, housing, and schools. Weight economic data most heavily.

35
Visit towns and interview residents, assess traffic, parks, and gathering places, and consider intangibles like community spirit.

1
Select the winner based on the data and reporting.

Feedback on the Best Places to Live list? E-mail the editors

Online notes and sources
Unless otherwise indicated, all data are as of 2010. CNNMoney's Best Places database of 1,850-plus U.S. places includes towns with populations between 8,500 and 50,000, as well as cities with populations 100,000 and up.

Projections provided by Onboard Informatics are based on available U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Onboard Informatics is a data services company that specializes in working with real estate, media and technology companies.

Financial
Unemployment data for top 10 towns are at the county level, not the place itself.

Purchasing power is the median family income using ACCRA Cost of Living Index for 2010, as provided by Onboard. The ACCRA Cost of Living Index measures relative price levels for consumer goods and services.

Auto insurance data represent average quotes consumers received from more than 12 leading auto insurance companies that participate in Insurance.com's website. Note: No values were available for AK, HI, MA.

Housing
Median home sale price is compiled from actual sales transactions collected by Onboard Informatics from county and municipal assessor's offices for 2010. Only includes sales within the place boundaries. Collection and analysis of geographic data (geo-spatial aggregation) by Onboard Informatics.

Education
Underlying test scores are from GreatSchools.net. Onboard then calculated the values, which represent the percent by which the school district's Math and Reading test scores fall above or below the state's average scores.

Percent of students in public and private school represent students attending schools in the boundary area only, and may not add up to 100% in cases where students attend certain county or state schools. Onboard Informatics projection/aggregation.

Quality of Life
Air quality index are county numbers. Source: EPA, Onboard Informatics projection/aggregation.

Personal crime incidents are per 1,000 from 2009 FBI incidence reports and Onboard Informatics aggregations.

Property crime incidents are per 1,000 from 2009 FBI incidence reports and Onboard Informatics aggregations.

Percent of workers with long commute times from U.S. Census and Onboard Informatics projections.

Percent of population that walks or bikes to work from U.S. Census and Onboard Informatics aggregations.

Leisure and culture
Number of arts and leisure activities (including museums, restaurants, bars, golf courses and ski resorts) within proximity of each city is calculated by Onboard Informatics. Two years ago, Onboard added some 250,000 records to its database and refined its tool for calculating the number of museums, restaurants, bars, etc. within a certain radius, so counts this year may not match previous years' counts. Data sources:

InfoUSA - business names and locations, including recreational facilities and more (www.infoUSA.com). Geo-spatial aggregation and processing by Onboard Informatics.

American Association of Museums - names and addresses of their member institutions. (www.aam-us.org). Geo-spatial aggregation and processing by Onboard Informatics.

National Assembly of State Arts Agencies - data on art funding (www.nasaa-arts.org)

GoSki.com - names and locations of ski resorts (www.GoSki.com). Geo-spatial aggregation and processing by Onboard Informatics.

Weather
Weather data from NOAA National Weather Center observation reporting stations. Collection and analysis of geographic data (geo-spatial aggregation) by Onboard Informatics.

Meet the neighbors
Percent of population that is married or divorced from U.S. Census and Onboard Informatics projections.

Map data details
Homes for sale provided by Trulia Real Estate Search.

City stats from Money, Onboard Informatics.

Locations of Best Companies to Work For and Fortune 500 companies come from FORTUNE lists.

Map location sources and data partners
Using statistics from data provider Onboard Informatics, we crunched the numbers in order to zero in on America's best small towns for families. (Last year, we looked at small cities, with populations between 50,000 and 300,000.) Here's how:

American Association of Museums - names and addresses of their member institutions. (www.aam-us.org). Geo-spatial aggregation and processing by Onboard Informatics.

American Public Gardens Association - names and addresses of their member institutions. (www.aabga.org). Geo-spatial aggregation and processing by Onboard Informatics.

American Symphony Orchestra League - names and locations of member symphonies and orchestras. (www.symphony.org). Geo-spatial aggregation and processing by Onboard Informatics.

Associations of Zoos and Aquariums - names and addresses of their member institutions. (www.aza.org). Geo-spatial aggregation and processing by Onboard Informatics.

GoSki.com - names and locations of North American ski resorts. (www.GoSki.com). Geo-spatial aggregation and processing by Onboard Informatics.

Great Schools - Test scores (www.GreatSchools.org)

InfoUSA - top employers by county and listings and counts of businesses by type including recreational facilities, hospitals and more (www.infoUSA.com). Geo-spatial aggregation and processing by Onboard Informatics.

Insurance.com - average auto insurance quotes (www.Insurance.com).

Note: Only four-year colleges and graduate schools are displayed. Source: Onboard Informatics.

All content based on public, private and governmental sources - and while we make every effort to identify errors or omissions in these sources, neither Onboard Informatics nor CNNMoney.com guarantees the accuracy of this information.

Find your best place to live -- How it works
Pick the criteria you care most about. The screener will return all places that fit your criteria, in order of Best Places rank, followed by state, then city. To remove a category from consideration, click the illuminated blue button to turn it off.

Home prices
Median home sales price is compiled from actual sales transactions collected by Onboard Informatics from county and municipal assessor's offices for 2010. Only includes sales within the place boundaries.

Good schools
Check "important" to limit your search to places whose schools are rated in the top 20% vs. the Best Places database of 1,850-plus U.S. towns.

Places are rated on test scores (Source: Great Schools), educational climate (source: Onboard Informatics, based on the U.S. Census Bureau's Socioeconomic Status and other socioeconomic factors) and percent of public vs. private schools (Data source: Onboard Informatics).

Job growth
Source: Census data, with Onboard Informatics projections for 2010 and data normalization for 2000.

Weather
For each factor (rainfall, snowfall, etc.), cities are rated vs. the Best Places database of 1,850-plus U.S. towns. (Weather data source: Onboard Informatics)

Crime
Check the box to limit your search to places where the violent crime rate (based on 2009 FBI incidence reports) is below the Best Places DB average. Geographic aggregation and estimates (where needed) by Onboard Informatics

Activities
Limits your search to places where the number of attractions are above the Best Places DB average.

Sources: Restaurants, bars, movie theaters, golf, wineries, religious worship (InfoUSA)
Museums (American Association of Museums)
Green space (Onboard Informatics)
Orchestras (Symphony.org)

The neighbors
For singles and population age, cities are rated vs. the Best Places database of 1,850-plus U.S. places.

Check the box for "high income" or "college educated" to limit your search to cities that score higher than the Best Places DB average.

Note: The Best Places DB average refers to the average for the entire Best Places database of 1,850-plus U.S. places - which includes towns with populations between 8,500 and 50,000, as well as cities with populations 100,000 and up.

MONEY Magazine's Best Places to Live 2011

Feedback on the Best Places to Live list? E-mail the editors

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Find Your Best Places
Region
Northeast South
Midwest West
Ranking
Top 100 winners only
Population
8.4M
8,500
Home Prices
2010 median sales prices
$2.3M
$42K
Using statistics from data services company Onboard Informatics, we crunched the numbers in order to zero in on America's best small towns for families. (Last year, we looked at small cities, with populations between 50,000 and 300,000.) More

Comments? E-mail the editors

onboard
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