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FAQ and sources

Using statistics from data services company Onboard Informatics and other sources, 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:


Start with all U.S. towns with populations of 10,000 to 50,000.


Screen out places with a median family income of more than 200% or less than 85% of the state average; those with more than 95% of one race; and those with poor education and crime scores.


Exclude retirement communities and towns with major job losses. Rank the rest using job growth, housing appreciation and affordability, safety, schools, health care, arts and leisure, diversity, and ease of living.


Factor in more data on the economy, jobs, real estate, and health care. Give the most weight to economic and housing factors. Limit list to three places per state, one per county, and sort to represent all regions evenly.


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


Select the winner based on the data and reporting.

Online notes and sources

Unless otherwise indicated, all data are as of 2012.

CNNMoney's Best Places database of 1,900-plus U.S. places includes towns with populations between 10,000 and 50,000.

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.


Median family income data is based on U.S. Census/Onboard projections/aggregations.

Purchasing power is the adjusted median family income using ACCRA Cost of Living Index for 4th quarter of 2012, 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 19 auto insurance companies that participate in's website. Note: Average quotes aren't available for Massachusetts towns.


Median home sale price is compiled from actual sales transactions collected by Onboard Informatics from county and municipal assessor's offices for 2012. Only includes sales within the place boundaries. Collection and analysis of geographic data (geo-spatial aggregation) by Onboard Informatics.


Underlying test scores are from 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 2011 FBI incidence reports and Onboard Informatics aggregations.

Property crime incidents are per 1,000 from 2011 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.


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.

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 guarantees the accuracy of this information.

MONEY Magazine's Best Places to Live 2013

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Money picked the top 100. Now it's your turn: Which town will be our fan favorite? 'Like' your town and it might just make it to No. 1.

Town # of Likes
1. Sharon, MA 11,968
2. Apex, NC 10,738
3. Westford, MA 6,023
4. Peachtree City, GA 5,632
5. Hillsborough, NJ 5,329
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