Money's list of America's best small cities

8 of 100
8. Columbia/Ellicott City, MD
Ellicott City
Centennial Park in Ellicott City
Top 100 rank: 8
Population: 61,200
Compare Ellicott City to Top 10 Best Places
One of the nation's oldest settlements (it was founded in 1772), Ellicott City snuggles up to one of its newest, Columbia (a planned community conjured up out of 14,000 acres of farmland in 1967). This duo remains a perennial contender on our Best Places list thanks to its mix of charm, comfort and careful zoning.

Historic Ellicott City's steep Main Street is lined with antique shops and teahouses, while Columbia, a cluster of nine residential villages around a town center, is home to offices of such high-powered tech companies as Arbitron, Merkle and Northrop Grumman. No wonder residents' median household income has risen more than 20% since 2000.

Though traffic can be a headache, it's easy to escape it: More than a third of Columbia's acreage has been set aside as open space, including a 950-acre nature preserve, a skateboard park and three lakes.

Median family income
(per year)
$112,215 $93,313
Family purchasing power
(annual, cost-of-living adjusted)
$79,812 $84,802
Sales tax 6.00% 6.60%
State income tax rate
(highest bracket)
4.75% 5.22%
State income tax rate
(lowest bracket)
2.00% 2.42%
Auto insurance premiums
(Average price quotes, for the state)
$2,139 $1,854
Job growth %
9.97% 18.60%
Median home price $477,408 $293,712
Average property taxes
$2,589 $4,072
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Colleges, universities and
professional schools (within 30 miles)
61 40
Junior colleges and
technical institutes (within 30 miles)
12 20
Test scores reading
(% above/below state average)
24.0% 17.3%
Test scores math
(% above/below average)
25.4% 16.6%
% students attending public/private
schools (located within town limits)
87.9/12.1 89.5/10.5
Air quality index*
(% of days AQI ranked as good)
N.A. 76.0%
Personal crime incidents (per 1,000) 23 2
Property crime incidents (per 1,000) N.A.3 25
Median commute time
(in minutes)
25.1 23.0
% population with commute
45 mins. or longer
18.0% 15.8%
% population walk or bike to work 1.4% 3.0%
Movie theaters
(within 15 miles)
38 51
(within 15 miles)
3,894 4,141
(within 15 miles)
430 338
Public golf courses
(within 30 miles)
237 242
(within 15 miles)
90 90
Museums (accredited by AAM;
within 30 miles)
27 11
Ski resorts (within 100 miles) 8 13
Arts funding (Dollars per person of state funds spent on arts) 2.9 1.5
Annual rainfall
45.03 36.31
% clear days in the area 29 30
High temp in July ° F 87.4° 87.8°
Low temp in Jan ° F 22.7° 22.9°
Has health plan
(% of residents)
89.0% 88.2%
Body mass index (avg. for residents) 26 27
Diabetes rates
(% of residents diagnosed)
8.8% 9.6%
Hypertension rates
(% of residents diagnosed)
25.1% 27.3%
Median age 39.9 36.0
Completed at least some college
(% of residents)
81.7% 73.6%
Married 63.4% 57.5%
Divorced 6.1% 8.3%
Racial diversity index
(100 is national average; higher numbers indicate greater diversity)
135.1 104.0
Amount spent on vacations
(domestic and foreign, household avg. per year)
$8,847 $8,012
From the August 2008 issue
* County data
** State data
(3) Crime incidences are estimates based on FBI 2006 Universal Crime and incidence reports, OnBoard analysis.
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...What Readers Say
They speak out on Ellicott City and other places ...
Lockheed Martin 57
Constellation Energy 117
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FORTUNE: Best to work for
Erickson Retiremt. 93
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Information powered by Onboard Informatics
Some data may be provided courtesy of its partners.
Sperling's Best Places
Additional data and consulting services provided by Bert Sperling's
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Top 3

City Median income
New Canaan, CT $231,138
Darien, CT $218,130
Lake Forest, IL $212,122
City % single
Hoboken, NJ 57.7%
Cambridge, MA 52.4%
Somerville, MA 51.4%
City Median home price
Nicholasville, KY $70,000
Watauga, TX $117,040
Redan, GA $115,000
Using statistics from data provider Onboard Informatics and consultant Bert Sperling of, 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 7,500 and 50,000.) More