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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.

Johnson County, Indiana

middle class thrive franklin
  • Population: 139,654
  • Median household Income: $60,835 (national average: $48,958)
  • Unemployment rate: 5.3% (national rate: 6.7%)*

Just south of Indianapolis, Johnson County's proximity to the big city helps make it a good place for middle class folks. But that's not its only advantage. What's the area's secret sauce?

For starters, the county's varied mix of industries supports a diverse local economy. Greenwood, the closest town to Indianapolis, is a retail and dining center for the south central part of the state. It's also a bedroom community for commuters.

Further south, Franklin has a solid manufacturing base -- including many auto related plants -- while continuing to support an agricultural sector from its days as a farming town.

But it's not just about good jobs and decent incomes. Franklin also has generous public sector support for things like schools and infrastructure as well as relatively low taxes, said Tricia Bechman, head of the local Chamber of Commerce.

CNNMoney also considered things like education levels, income inequality, housing affordability, crime and poverty rates, and access to amenities such as banks, health care and grocery stores. Here are seven more places that score high on middle-class life -- and how they pull it off.

*Unemployment rates are as of December, the most recent data available at the county level

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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