In Pictures: Top 50 U.S. Cities Ranked by Quality of Life And Average Salary

The U.S. News & World Report ranked the 100 largest metropolitan areas of the country based on affordability, job prospects and quality of life. Here are the top 50 spots, all cities were given a score out of 10. Creative Commons CCO/John Piercy/Flickr

Every year,  U.S. News & World Report, a global authority in rankings and consumer advice, releases its list of the Best Places to Live in the United States, based on extensive statistical research and public surveys.

“When considering a move people are concerned about finding a job in their field, earning enough to afford a home, sending their kids to good schools and feeling like a part of their community," said Kim Castro, executive editor at U.S. News. "The Best Places to Live ranking takes all of that into account — the metro areas that do well are the ones with strong job markets and high quality of life." 

Analysts examined the 125 most populous metropolitan areas in the country, which included the so-called "Mega Cities" of more than 2.5 million people, all the way down to the "small city" of Anchorage, Alaska, whose population of less than 400,000 made it the smallest included in the study.

But size is absolutely no guarantee of either a high or a low position on the list of best places to live. Rather, "a place had to have good value, be a desirable place to live, have a strong job market and a high quality of life," Real Estate News said, explaining its methodology. 

In 2017, there were big moves toward the top of the list for San Jose, California and Washington, D.C., as well as for Fayetteville, Arkansas. According to Today, the job market is booming in Fayetteville thanks to high employers Walmart, J.B. Transport, Tyson Foods and the University of Arkansas.

U.S. News & World Report allocated 30 percent of its final calculation to its "Quality of Life Index," which looked at crime rates, health care, education, well-being and time spent commuting. Twenty-five percent depended on its "Value Index," which compared median household income to the area's average cost of living. Meanwhile the "Job Market Index," which examined both unemployment rate alongside average salary, accounted for a further 20 percent of the calculation.

The final 25 percent was based on the study's "Desirability Index" and an area's net migration statistics. The analysts quizzed the American public about which metro areas most appealed to them to come up with a region's "desirability." Then they crunched the numbers from the US Census to determine whether an area is successfully attracting new residents, or whether people tend to be leaving.

Where should you go? Here are the top 50 most desirable places to give you an idea. And here is the latest 2018 list.

02 altanta
50. Atlanta, Georgia.

Overall Score: 6.6.
Quality of Life: 5.8.
Average annual salary: $49,430.
Creative Commons CCO
2A Atlanta
In addition to U.S. News & World Report ranking Atlanta one of the best places to live, it’s also ranks 62 in their list of best places to retire. Getty Images
03 melbourne florida
49. Melbourne, Florida.

Overall Score: 6.6.
Quality of Life: 7.3.
Average annual salary: $45,470.
Creative Commons CCO
04 Kansas city missouri
48. Kansas City, Missouri.

Overall Score: 6.6.
Quality of Life: 6.1.
Average annual salary: $47,640.
Creative Commons CCO
5A Kansas City
U.S. News & World Report estimated the median rent in Kansas City to be $863, fairly low in comparison to other metropolitan cities. It’s also known as the “city of fountains” because of (take a wild guess)... all their fountains. Getty Images
05 Milwaukee
47. Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Overall Score: 6.6.
Quality of Life: 7.0.
Average annual salary: $48,170.
Creative Commons CCO
06 Honolulu Hawaii
46. Honolulu, Hawaii.

Overall Score: 6.6.
Quality of Life: 6.2.
Average annual salary: $49,320.
Creative Commons CCO
8A Honolulu
U.S. News & World Report calls Honolulu, “... undoubtedly the Hawaiian Islands' cultural and culinary hub..” So go on and pig out (in some cases literally, thanks to their famous pig roasts, cooked in the traditional Hawaiian style called kālua). Getty Images
07 jacksonville florida
45. Jacksonville, Florida.

Overall Score: 6.6.
Quality of Life: 6.7.
Average annual salary: $43,460.
Creative Commons CCO
08 phoenix
44. Phoenix, Arizona.

Overall Score: 6.6.
Quality of Life: 6.1.
Average annual salary: $46,700.
Alan English CPA/Flickr
11A Phoenix
“Phoenix is the best place to get a sampling of all the state has to offer,” says U.S. News & World Report. “Recently built sports stadiums, along with updated arts and shopping districts fringe downtown, as do some of the area's finest eateries.” Getty Images