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Where Should I Move? The Best (and Worst) Places to Live in 2022, According to Americans

where should I move

🌎 Where should I move? 🌎
Virginia Beach is the surprising No. 1 most desirable city in the U.S. and aligns with Americans’ top moving priorities: a low cost of living, safe neighborhoods, and affordable home prices, according to a survey of 1,000 Americans.
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Why Americans Move | Barriers to Relocation | Where Americans Live | Deciding Where to Move | What Makes a Great Place to Live? | What Makes a Place Overrated? | Most Desirable Cities | Most Undesirable Cities | Most Underrated Cities | Most Overrated Cities | Most Desirable States | Least Desirable States | Best Regions in the U.S. | Best Cities by Region

The distribution of people across the U.S. isn’t uniform. Some Americans choose to live in bustling cities, while others prefer spacious suburbs or slow-paced towns in the rural countryside.

Where Americans choose to live depends on individual preferences, as well as a variety of environmental, economic, and social factors.

Although some people have more choice in deciding where to plant roots, a majority (81%) are satisfied with their location, according to our study of 1,000 Americans.

But that’s never stopped Americans from chasing new opportunities or pursuing an even better life for themselves. From the Oklahoma Land Rush of the 1880s to the “Green Rush” more than a century later, Americans have a long tradition of geographic mobility.

To learn more about where Americans really want to live, we asked them what they consider the most (and least) desirable cities, states, and regions in the U.S.

We discovered what makes a great place to live, according to Americans — with surprising results — and what would prompt them to pack up their lives and move to a new location.

🏠 Best Places to Live Statistics

  • More than 80% of Americans like where they live, but 92% say they could be convinced to move to another city or state.
    • Of those who aren’t happy where they live, more than half (52%) say they can’t afford to move.
  • More than three-fourths of Americans (76%) live in urban or suburban areas, but more would trade city life for a rural home.
    • About one-fourth of Americans (24%) currently live in rural areas, but nearly one-third (30%) would prefer to live there.
  • A majority of Americans agree that high crime rates (58%), expensive living costs (56%), and high population density (51%) make a city undesirable or overrated.
  • Americans consider Virginia Beach the most desirable and most underrated city in the U.S.
    • You either love or hate Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle: All three cities make the list of the top 10 most- and least-desirable cities.
    • Phoenix, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Richmond round out the top five most underrated cities.
  • Los Angeles is the least desirable and most overrated city.
    • L.A. is followed on the least-desirable list by Birmingham, San Francisco, Detroit, and New York.
    • San Francisco, New York, Dallas, and Miami also made the most overrated list.
  • Florida is the most desirable state in the country, followed by California, Texas, Hawaii, and Colorado.
  • Despite ranking as the No. 2 best state to live, California is also the least desirable state — even more than 1 in 4 Californians say it’s one of the five worst in the U.S.
    • Alabama, New York, Alaska, Texas, and Arkansas round out the list of most undesirable states.
  • The most desirable region in the U.S. is the South Atlantic consisting of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
    • The least desirable region is the East South Central consisting of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
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More Than 80% of Americans Like Where They Live

Despite widespread political division, sweeping inflation, and a sporadic pandemic recovery, about 81% of Americans across all generations are satisfied with where they live.

But Americans are some of the most mobile citizens in the world, and even 92% of those who like their location say they could be convinced to move to another city or state.

Americans move to be near family or to pursue a better lifestyle, but the primary reasons they relocate are for economic purposes, including:

  • A great job opportunity (52%)
  • Lower cost of living (52%)
  • More affordable homes (44%)

Mobility by Generation

Boomers are 5x more likely than the younger generations to stay in their current location. If they were to move, they would do so for better weather (43%) and to be closer to family and friends (42%).

Neither of those reasons is particularly compelling to young adults, though, and boomers are 87% more likely than millennials to relocate for better weather and 45% more likely to relocate for family reasons.

Meanwhile, millennials and Gen Z are in their prime working years and are motivated by employment opportunities. Both generations are nearly 3x more likely than boomers to relocate for a great job.

Social factors also influence the younger generations’ desire to move.

About half of Americans think dating is more difficult than it was 10 years ago, and Gen Z is 4x more likely than boomers to move for better dating opportunities.

Finding something to do on a date shouldn’t be as hard as finding someone to go out with. Gen Z wants to live in a location with lots of amenities, and they’re 79% more likely than boomers to relocate to an area that has more attractions.

Political Migration

In 2022, real estate brokerage firm Redfin predicted that Americans would “vote with their feet” and move to areas that matched their political beliefs.

Although 1 in 4 Americans (23%) say cities and states with similar political positions are more desirable, only 13% would actually relocate for political reasons.

Generationally, millennials are the most likely to move to escape disagreeable politics.

About 1 in 6 millennials (17%) say they’d relocate to a location that better aligns with their political beliefs, making them 70% more likely than boomers and 13% more likely than Gen Z to do so.

However, local economics, public safety, climate change, and quality education remain more important considerations for American movers.

Half of Americans Can’t Afford to Move to a Desired Location

About 1 in 5 (19%) Americans don’t like where they live, but they stay because of financial reasons. Of those who are dissatisfied with their location, more than half (52%) say they can’t afford to move to a more desirable area.

Many of the most desirable locations are urban areas that have high-paying jobs but expensive housing and living costs that younger generations can’t afford, and many are priced out of these housing markets. With crippling debt and stagnating wages, 51% of millennials and 51% of Gen Z say they can’t afford to move.

Boomers, on the other hand, place a high value on relationships as they enter their golden years. The No. 1 reason they stay in an undesirable location is because they’re reluctant to leave their family and friends.

Others don’t want to adapt to a new environment so late in life. More than 1 in 4 (29%) say they’ve established their lives and don’t want to start over.

On the other hand, that’s precisely why 1 in 8 millennials and 1 in 6 Gen Zers want to move.

More Americans Would Prefer to Live in Rural Areas

With plenty of jobs and opportunities for upward mobility, more than 3 in 4 survey respondents (76%) live in urban or suburban areas.

Younger generations are most likely to live in urban areas, with 41% of millennials residing in city centers. The cohort enjoys city living, and three-fourths of urban millennials (76%) say it’s their location of choice.

Overall, millennials are 117% more likely than boomers to prefer living in the city and 64% more likely to actually reside there.

By contrast, more than half of boomers (55%) live in the suburbs, making them 41% more likely than millennials to do so. Boomers are even more content with their location than millennials, and 81% say the suburbs are their preferred place to live.

Surprisingly, more Americans want to live in rural areas. City dwellers realized the perks of country living during the pandemic, when large swaths of the population began deserting metro areas in search of more space and lower living costs.

The mass exodus has slowed, but the rural migration trend is expected to continue. About one-fourth of respondents (24%) currently live in the countryside, but nearly one-third (30%) would prefer to move there.

Boomers are the most likely to favor a quiet country life, with nearly 1 in 3 (31%) saying they’d move to rural America.

With few cultural amenities and entertainment options, Gen Z doesn’t understand the rural appeal. They are 39% less likely than boomers and 34% less likely than millennials to prefer a rural lifestyle.

Expensive, Unsafe Cities Deter New Residents

Americans may be attracted to rural communities because these areas typically have lower living costs and crime rates. In fact, when moving to a new location, the top three most important considerations are:

  • Cost of living
  • Safe neighborhoods
  • Affordable home prices

Boomers, millennials, and Gen Z all rank cost of living and safe neighborhoods as their first and second priorities, respectively.

Boomers and Gen Z agree that affordable housing is the third-most important priority, while millennials diverge. They value an easy commute over affordable homes — although that’s not far behind in fourth place.

The inverse is also true. Americans say the would not move to a location with:

  • A high cost of living (61%)
  • Unsafe neighborhoods (60%)
  • Expensive homes (46%)

Expensive living costs are particularly discouraging to boomers nearing retirement age. Many of them are still contributing to meager retirement funds and need to age in a place where they won’t outspend their savings. As a result, boomers are 25% more likely than millennials and 13% more likely than Gen Z to view high living costs as a dealbreaker.

Although safe neighborhoods are important to all generations, boomers are 50% more likely than millennials and 33% more likely than Gen Z to say they would not move to an area with high crime.

The generations agree on the top three reasons not to move, but after that, answer choices vary, predictably, upon each generation’s stage of life.

For example, as the highly educated younger generations get married and start families, they’re looking to find good schools for their children. Thirty-three percent of millennials and 38% of Gen Z would not move to a location with low-quality education.

Relocation preferences also show differing values among the generations. One-third of Gen Zers (33%) wouldn’t move to an area that lacked diversity. That’s nearly double the amount of boomers who say the same.

What Makes a Great Place to Live?

Every location has its own distinct culture that differentiates it from other places.

Not every city or state will be considered great for the same reasons, but the best ones have few things in common.

The most desirable places have an affordable cost of living, according to nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%). But that alone won’t attract new residents or foster an emotional attachment among current households.

Environmental and social factors certainly matter in separating the great places from the mundane. Americans say the most desirable areas must also have:

  • A high quality of life (62%)
  • Low crime rates (60%)
  • Nice weather (58%)
  • Natural beauty (49%)

What Makes a Place Overrated?

No place is perfect. It may be worth sacrificing a few priorities to live in certain locations, but others simply aren’t worth the hype.

What makes a place great (or not great) is a matter of personal opinion. But a majority of Americans agree on at least three things that make a city or state overrated:

  • High crime and unsafe neighborhoods (58%)
  • Expensive cost of living (56%)
  • Too crowded (51%)

Yet many of the drawbacks of city life don’t seem to matter to some Americans.

For example, gentrification is a highly contested practice because it displaces low-income families and prohibits them from moving into a neighborhood. But 80% of Americans don’t think it makes a city overrated.

Additionally, racism is one of the top-five reasons respondents say a city or state is overrated. But sadly, more than half of Americans (52%) don’t think racism diminishes a city’s value.

10 Most Desirable Cities to Live

  1. Virginia Beach, VA
  2. Seattle, WA
  3. San Diego, CA
  4. Los Angeles, CA
  5. San Francisco, CA
  6. Phoenix, AZ
  7. Denver, CO
  8. Miami, FL
  9. Nashville, TN
  10. Tampa, FL

Of the 50 most-populous U.S. cities, Americans say Virginia Beach is the most desirable — 1 in 5 respondents (21%) list Virginia Beach in their top five.

Virginia Beach may not have the fame of other beach towns, such as Miami or San Diego, but with 35 miles of coastline, fascinating museums, and plenty of fresh food, it has many of the same great things to do for a fraction of the cost.

In fact, Virginia Beach is the only city in the top five most desirable that has a regional price parity (96) below the national average (100).

Although Americans say affordability is what makes a city desirable, the other four cities in the top five are some of the most expensive in the country. Most notably, in San Francisco, the cost of goods exceeds the national average by 17% while the typical home value has hit $1.6 million — 2.5x higher than the studied city average ($449,718).

Rising costs are forcing many Americans to flee the most expensive cities. Of the top five most-desirable cities, only Seattle has experienced population growth in the past five years.

Although these cities may be desirable for their attractions and amenities, money tends to have a greater influence over Americans’ actions.

10 Least Desirable Cities to Live

  1. Los Angeles, CA
  2. Birmingham, AL
  3. San Francisco, CA
  4. Detroit, MI
  5. New York, NY
  6. Chicago, IL
  7. Seattle, WA
  8. Dallas, TX and Milwaukee, WI*
  9. Washington, D.C.
  10. Phoenix, AZ

*indicates a tie

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans (19%) think Los Angeles is one of the top five best places to live, but the City of Angels isn’t as glamorous as it may seem to some.

A greater percentage of Americans (27%) consider Los Angeles the least desirable place to live in the U.S. It was the No. 1 choice among respondents of all generations, with more than one-third of boomers (34%) ranking it at the bottom.

Those who aren’t blinded by the glare of the Hollywood lights suffocate under a smog of overpriced despair. The cost of living is nearly 12% higher than the national average, and average home values nearing $1 million are more than 2x the average across all cities studied ($449,718). Although Beverly Hills is often considered the best neighborhood in Los Angeles, its celebrity-occupied properties and glamorous amenities are completely out of reach for average residents.

With an unemployment rate of 4.6% — 25% higher than the national average (3.7%) — residents are left California dreamin’ about how to afford the L.A. lifestyle.

As a result, more than 638,000 residents have migrated from Los Angeles in the past five years. That’s more than any other city in the U.S. besides New York.

Los Angeles is joined in the bottom 10 by two other cities, San Francisco and Seattle, that Americans simultaneously love and hate. But unlike L.A. and San Francisco, Seattle has far less haters.

About 21% of Americans ranked Seattle as one of the best places to live, while only 16% ranked it as one of the worst places to live.

10 Most Underrated Cities to Live

  1. Virginia Beach, VA
  2. Phoenix, AZ
  3. Seattle, WA
  4. Salt Lake City, UT
  5. Richmond, VA
  6. Milwaukee, WI
  7. San Francisco, CA
  8. Charlotte, NC
  9. Denver, CO
  10. Nashville, TN

Not everyone can afford big-city prices. Although many of these mid-market locales may be somewhere off the beaten path, they’re becoming increasingly popular as affordable places to live.

With a negative net migration over the past five years, there isn’t a lot of demand to live in Virginia Beach, but the city has much to offer. Approximately 18% of city land is designated for parks and recreation, making it the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts.

It’s possible to find a forever home in Virginia Beach, where the typical home value is $331,804 — 26% cheaper than the studied city average ($449,718). There are also plenty of job opportunities, with an unemployment rate (3.3%) that’s 11% lower than the studied city average (3.7%).

In fact, all of the top five underrated cities have unemployment rates below the national rate of 3.7%, attracting employees who fuel economic growth.

Americans are finally starting to wise up to the benefits of living in these emerging cities. For example, in Phoenix — the second most underrated city — more than 440,000 people have moved to the Valley of Sun in the past five years. That’s more than any other city in the U.S. besides Dallas.

Likewise, Seattle welcomed 151,500 new residents, while Salt Lake City and Richmond also boasted migration gains.

10 Most Overrated Cities to Live

  1. Los Angeles, CA
  2. San Francisco, CA
  3. New York, NY
  4. Dallas, TX
  5. Miami, FL
  6. Las Vegas, NV
  7. Seattle, WA
  8. Washington, D.C.
  9. Houston, TX
  10. San Diego, CA

The top three reasons Americans say a city is overrated is because of high crime rates (58%), a high cost of living (56%), and crowds (51%). Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York check most of those boxes, except — surprisingly — for crime rates.

All three cities have crime rates below the studied city average of 895 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.

Regional Price Parity Violent Crimes / 100K Residents Residents / Square Mile
National Average 100 895 776
Los Angeles 112 761 2,717
San Francisco 117 715 1,919
New York 115 539 3,005
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Dallas, which is considered the eighth most undesirable city, made the unfortunate leap into the top five most overrated. Americans see the Big D as one of the most insufferable U.S. cities for more reasons than Texans’ supposed outsized ego.

The weather is terrible, with the four seasons consisting of hot, hotter, hottest and melting. Plus, the city is home to one of the most … difficult fan bases in the NFL in the Dallas Cowboys.

Yet Dallas’ crime rate (775 violent crimes per 100,000 residents) and typical home values ($401,123) are below the national averages (895 and $449,718, respectively). In addition, urban sprawl keeps the city from feeling too crowded.

As a result, Dallas has added more than 454,900 new residents in the past five years. That’s 15x the national average and more than any other city on this list.

Miami is another city that’s experienced positive migration, despite being considered overrated.

Magic City boasts a diverse culture and a low unemployment rate (2.6%), but the city was voted one of the top five vacation destinations in 2021 by Tripadvisor, bringing an influx of tourists to an already crowded city (1,207 residents per square mile).

Miami is also extremely susceptible to hurricanes, making an expensive home ($531,386) a risky investment.

10 Most Desirable States to Live

  1. Florida
  2. California
  3. Texas
  4. Hawaii
  5. Colorado
  6. New York
  7. Arizona
  8. Washington
  9. Virginia
  10. Georgia

Florida is the most desirable state in the country, with one-third of Americans (33%) selecting it as their top choice.

With year-round warm weather, sandy beaches, and no state income tax, there’s a lot to love about the Sunshine State. It’s particularly popular among boomers nearing retirement age. After all, the state is home to two cities, Tampa and Miami, that have recently been named some of the best places to retire in the entire U.S. (In state-level rankings, Sarasota stands out as the best place to retire in Florida, thanks to its sizable community of retirees, top-rated health care, and plentiful recreation options.)

Most Floridans wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else, with 75% of residents ranking it in their top five most-desirable states.

Florida has even more state pride than its most-populous peers, California and Texas. Florida residents are 25% more likely than Californians and 10% more likely than Texans to say their own state is the most desirable.

California is the second most-desirable state, finishing just 1 percentage point behind the leader (32%). Whereas boomers prefer Florida, the Golden State is more popular among younger generations, with millennials (37%) and Gen Z (41%) ranking it as their top choice. Although the California real estate market is famously pricy, smaller cities like Fresno may see newcomers drawn by lower housing costs.

Surprisingly, California received significant votes from rival Texas. Although 68% of Texans ranked the Lone Star State in their top five, nearly one-third (31%) chose California.

Hawaii and Colorado, whose beautiful landscapes no doubt attract new residents, round out the top five.

10 Least Desirable States to Live

  1. California
  2. Alabama
  3. New York
  4. Alaska and Texas*
  5. Arkansas
  6. Florida
  7. Washington
  8. Arizona
  9. West Virginia
  10. New Jersey and Wyoming*

*indicates a tie

Americans either love or hate California. Although the Golden State is considered one of the best places to live, it’s also considered the least desirable state in the U.S.

Whether it’s the traffic, air pollution, or sky-high living expenses, 28% of survey respondents say they wouldn’t want to live in California. In fact, more than one-fourth of California residents (26%) rank their own state in the bottom five.

Yet nobody loathes California more than Texas. About 28% of Texas residents say California is the least desirable state. For comparison, just 17% of Texans say the same about their own state.

Every state has its haters, but Americans tend to dislike states that are geographically, socially, and politically different from their own.

For example, 25% of Alabama residents wouldn’t want to live in New York, while 40% of New Yorkers wouldn’t want to live in Alabama. There’s only so much heat, country music, and “Roll Tide” a Yankee can take.

Arkansas stands out among the bottom five for having the most residents (38%) who view their own state as undesirable. But for Arkansans who are hog wild about their state, half (50%) rank New York as one of the least desirable.

Least Desirable States by Generation

Living preferences help determine how desirable different generations view states.

Boomers, who tend to gravitate toward suburban and rural areas, regard California and its large urban centers as undesirable. Nearly one-third of the cohort (32%) ranked it as the worst state to live.

Meanwhile, millennials and Gen Z, who prefer to live in cities, rank rural Alaska and Alabama as their least desirable states, respectively.

More than 1 in 4 millennials ranked Alaska as their bottom choice, while about 29% of Gen Z wouldn’t want to live in Alabama.

Best Regions to Live in the U.S.

  1. South Atlantic: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C.
  2. Pacific West: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington
  3. Mountain West: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming
  4. New England: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
  5. Mid-Atlantic: Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania
  6. Western Midwest: Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota
  7. West South Central: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas
  8. Eastern Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin
  9. East South Central: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee

Taking a cue from the animal kingdom, Americans flocked south in 2021, with the South Atlantic region becoming the destination of choice. About 1 in 7 Americans (15%) ranked it their top region.

The South Atlantic is considered the most desirable not only for its warm weather but also its comfort food, low cost of living, and famous hospitality. It’s also home to some of the best cities to start a business, attracting entrepreneurs and employees alike.

With so much to offer, the South Atlantic charms Americans of all generations. It is the most desirable region among boomers and Gen Z, while millennials ranked it second behind the Pacific West.

The two western regions — the Pacific and Mountain West — round out the top three most desirable regions.

The mountains, forests, and coasts that characterize these regions make them ideal for residents who enjoy natural beauty and outdoor recreation. Toke up on a trail to enhance the experience: The West has some of the most relaxed marijuana laws in the country and is home to the best weed cities in the U.S.

But the Western lifestyle isn’t all play. The region boasts strong job growth and a booming tech industry that attracts highly educated workers.

Despite the fact that Americans want to live in affordable areas, the most inexpensive regions — the South and Midwest (with the exception of the South Atlantic) — are ranked in the bottom half.

Unfairly labeled as “flyover country,” these regions are anything but dull. Chicago is in flyover state Illinois, but has “boring” ever been associated with the Windy City?

These regions have great cities, culture, and plenty of perks. Residents enjoy a low cost of living, low crime rates, and less traffic. All in all, they’re some of the best places to raise a family.

Best Cities to Live in the South

  1. Nashville, TN
  2. Charlotte, NC
  3. Virginia Beach, VA
  4. Orlando, FL
  5. Tampa, FL
  6. Raleigh, NC
  7. Miami, FL
  8. Austin, TX
  9. Richmond, VA
  10. Memphis, TN
  11. Jacksonville, FL
  12. New Orleans, LA
  13. Atlanta, GA
  14. San Antonio, TX
  15. Houston, TX
  16. Dallas, TX
  17. Louisville, KY
  18. Oklahoma City, OK
  19. Washington, DC
  20. Birmingham, AL

Nashville isn’t just a hub for burgeoning country artists. Music City is the most desirable city in the entire South, according to Americans.

Nearly 124,000 new residents have moved to Tennessee’s capital in the past five years. That’s 4x more than the studied city average (28,587).

With a cost of living score (95) below the national average (100), Nashville is particularly attractive to millennials and Gen Z, who ranked it as their top Southern city. With incredible sports teams, iconic honky-tonk bars, and fiery chicken, there’s plenty to keep young people entertained.

Charlotte, the No. 2 most desirable city, is most popular among boomers because of its affordability and safe neighborhoods.

The cost of living in Charlotte is 5% lower than the national average, while the typical home value ($391,651) is 13% lower ($4449,718). Additionally, the Queen City’s crime rate is 25% lower than the studied city average at just 663 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.

Not surprisingly, Virginia Beach — the most desirable city in the country — ranked third on this list and received the most No. 1 votes in the region (24%). Florida — the most desirable state — had two cities claim spots in the top five: Orlando and Tampa.

Both have experienced massive growth. Nearly 209,000 new residents have moved to Orlando in the past five years — 7x the studied city average — while more than 307,000 new residents have moved to Tampa — 10x the studied city average.

Americans say Alabama is one of the most undesirable states, so it’s no surprise that Birmingham is considered the worst city in the South. It’s especially unpopular among the younger generations, who ranked it at the bottom of their lists.

With homes selling for just $246,097 — 45% less than the national average — it’s easy to buy a home and start a life in Birmingham. But it’s plagued by violent crime. There are 1,577 violent crimes per 100,000 residents — a rate that surprisingly outstrips those of much larger cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, and is the second highest in the South.

Best Cities to Live in the West

  1. Denver, CO
  2. San Diego, CA
  3. Portland, OR
  4. Seattle, WA
  5. Las Vegas, NV
  6. Phoenix, AZ
  7. Sacramento, CA
  8. Salt Lake City, UT
  9. San Francisco, CA
  10. Los Angeles, CA

Denver has experienced quite the glow-up since its start as a rough-and-tumble mining town in the Wild West.

While prospectors converged at the base of the Rockies to search for gold, today’s crowd of laid-back nature lovers come for the outdoor adventures, innovative chefs, and booming music scene.

Nearly 94,000 new residents have moved to Denver in the past five years, driving strong economic growth. The unemployment rate is just 3.2% — 14% lower than the national average.

Mile High City is the Western city of choice among boomers and millennials, while Gen Z once again showed a preference for the largest cities. That generation selected San Francisco as the most desirable, followed by three other metros in California.

The West is known for its wide, open spaces, and many of the most desirable cities in this region have a high percentage of land allocated to parks and recreation:

  • San Diego (19%)
  • Portland (18%)
  • Seattle (13%)
  • Las Vegas (20%)

For example, the best neighborhoods in San Diego offer miles of trails, outdoor concert venues, and public beaches along the beautiful Southern California coast.

On the other hand, Americans consider the most overcrowded cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles, the least desirable in the West. The two cities have the greatest population losses in the region, with San Francisco losing more than 168,500 residents and Los Angeles losing 638,000 locals in the past five years.

High prices are driving the exodus from San Francisco, the most expensive city in the region. Goods cost 17% more than the national average, and homes typically sell for a whopping $1.6 million — about 3.5x more than the national average.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles has the highest crime rate (761 violent crimes per 100,000 residents) and the second highest unemployment rate (4.6%) among cities in the West.

Best Cities to Live in the Northeast

  1. Boston, MA
  2. Hartford, CT
  3. Providence, RI
  4. Pittsburgh, PA
  5. Philadelphia, PA
  6. New York, NY
  7. Baltimore, MD
  8. Buffalo, NY

As if Boston needed any more bragging rights, Americans say it’s the most desirable city in the Northeast.

Although net migration to Boston has been low over the past five years (335), it’s the only city in the region, besides Providence, that has seen an influx of residents. Americans are moving to Boston despite the fact that it has the highest typical home value ($694,303) and the second highest cost of living (110) among the eight cities on this list.

But Boston works hard to earn the top spot. It has the second lowest unemployment rate at 3.2%, which is 14% lower than the national average. Bostonians are also #blessed with lots of green space, the country’s best hospitals, obnoxiously good sports teams, and top-notch universities.

Boston was popular among all generations, with millennials selecting it as their top choice, Gen Z choosing it second, and boomers ranking it third.

It’s perhaps no surprise that Gen Z gravitates toward New York City. With one-third of the cohort (33%) saying they wouldn’t move to a city that lacked diversity, the Big Apple embodies Gen Z values and boasts the highest diversity score on this list (1.3).

Meanwhile, boomers say Hartford is the most desirable city because it meets their top priorities: the lowest violent crime rate in the Northeast (199 violent crimes per 100,000 residents) and inexpensive home prices ($344,177).

Despite being the second most affordable city in the Northeast, Buffalo fell to the bottom. Not only does it lack the prestige of some of its peers, it’s plagued by the second highest crime rate in the region (1,019 violent crimes per 100,000 residents).

Best Cities to Live in the Midwest

  1. Columbus, OH
  2. Milwaukee, WI
  3. St. Louis, MO
  4. Indianapolis, IN
  5. Minneapolis, MN
  6. Kansas City, MO
  7. Cincinnati, OH
  8. Cleveland, OH
  9. Chicago, IL
  10. Detroit, MI

Rising from the plains of America’s heartland, the most desirable city in the Midwest is none other than … Columbus?

Ohio’s capital may seem like too generic a choice to be the best in the state, let alone the entire Midwest, but a city that welcomes more than 63,000 new residents over the past five years must be doing something right.

Compared to the other Midwestern cities, Columbus has the lowest cost of living (94) and the lowest violent crime rate, with just 513 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. It’s also one of the top-four most diverse cities in the Midwest.

To claim the top spot, Columbus beat heavyweight Chicago, which actually received the most No. 1 votes (24%). Despite its renowned restaurants and first-class museums, the Windy City had an even greater number of last-place votes (28%), which caused it to drop in the rankings.

But the unfortunate title of least desirable city in the Midwest goes to Detroit.

The city is notorious for a high crime rate of 2,057 violent crimes per 10,000 residents, which is more than 2x the national average. It also has few job opportunities with an unemployment rate of 4.6% — the second highest rate in the Midwest.

Detroit’s brutal winters don’t help the living circumstances, and many locals are over it. More than 58,000 residents have moved from Motor City in the past five years.

But, hey, Detroit is a great place for pizza.


The proprietary data featured in this study comes from an online survey commissioned by Home Bay. One thousand Americans were surveyed Aug. 3-4, 2022. Each respondent answered up to 21 questions related to where they live, which areas of the U.S. they prefer, and what they believe makes a city or state desirable.

To supplement our survey findings, we included data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the FBI, individual city and metro police departments, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Zillow, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Trust for Public Land, the U.S. Census, and the National Equity Atlas.

About Home Bay

Where your real estate voyage begins. Since 2014, Home Bay has helped thousands of readers confidently sail through their next home sale or purchase. In 2021, Home Bay was acquired by Clever Real Estate, a free agent-matching service that has helped consumers save more than $82 million on real estate fees. Research by Home Bay’s Data Center has been cited by The New York Times, CNBC, MarketWatch, NPR, Apartment Therapy, Yahoo Finance, Black Enterprise, and more.

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