A new analysis by WalletHub has compared and classified 1,268 of America's small cities in the U.S. to find the ones where residents don't have to give up much by avoiding the "bright lights" and the soaring rent. Its data set include a total of 22 metrics, ranging from housing costs to school-system quality to the number of restaurants per capita.
Why live in a small city? Inevitably, life in a small city demands some tradeoffs such as shorter business hours, a heavier reliance on cars and fewer dating opportunities. It does bring benefits - tighter communities, less competition, shorter commutes and an actual backyard with a white picket fence. And from a purely financial standpoint, living in a small city creates a sense of greater wealth because of cheaper cost of living — one of the main draws for in-movers, especially those seeking to raise a family.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, a two-parent, two-child family would need to earn $49,114 a year "to secure an adequate but modest living standard" in Morristown, Tenn., compared with $106,493 in Washington. So even with a lighter wallet, a family or soloist can enjoy a comparable, or even better, quality of life for much less in a cozy place like Morristown.
What was the full ranking methodology?
To find the best small cities in America, WalletHub's analysts compared 1,268 cities across four key dimensions: 1) Affordability, 2) Economic Health, 3) Education & Health and 4) Quality of Life. For our sample, we chose cities with a population size between 25,000 and 100,000 residents. "City" refers to city proper and excludes surrounding metro areas. Next, it compiled 22 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights.
To obtain the final rankings, a score between 0 and 100 was attributed to each metric. The weighted sum of the scores was then calculated and used the overall result to rank the cities. Together, the points attributed to the four major dimensions add up to 100 points.
The dimensions are as follows: