The Best Places to Live/Find a Job/Retire search tools find which of the 2,000 places meet the criteria you choose. To create our list of places, we started with all the areas that have a population of at least 10,000 and crime that is below or equal to the national average. We supplemented these places with cities that have a population of 100,000 or more and a few other areas that have previously appeared in our Best Places to Retire search.
Places that don't meet your criteria will be excluded from the search tool. For example, if your ideal city population lies between 25,000 and 100,000, then all places outside of that range are removed from your results. Unless otherwise noted (i.e., U.S. News high school, university, hospital, and nursing home rankings), data is supplied by Onboard Informatics.
Population figures are based on census data and projections by Onboard Informatics.
Temperatures are based on the midpoint of the minimum and maximum for each month.
Precipitation during the year 2008.
Median Home Prices
The median home sale price is based on homes sold in 2008.
When selected, areas that have had job growth since 2000 appear.
Median Household Income
Median household income is for 2008.
When selected, areas with overall crime of less than 85 percent of the national average appear.
The college-educated population consists of the percentage of people of the place receiving a bachelor's or graduate degree.
Kids per Square Mile
The population of children aged 14 and under, divided by the area of the place.
Places where at least one of the areas selected is at the national average of participation for the activities chosen will appear.
With the following exceptions, those places where at least one of the areas selected is at the national average of cultural activities will appear. To qualify for Books and Reading, there must be at least one library in the area. To qualify for Concerts, there must be more than 100 concerts held within 30 miles of the place. To qualify for Family/Arts Events, there must be more than 100 events held within 30 miles of the place. To qualify for Movie Theaters, there must be at least one movie theater within 15 miles of the place. To qualify for Museums, there must be more than 25 museums within 25 miles of the place. To qualify for Wineries, there must be a winery within 60 miles of the place.
Based on the distance from the center of the place.
Close to an America's Best Hospital
This is based on the distance from the center of the place. These rankings were published in July 2008.
Near a School with a High GreatSchools.net Rating
GreatSchools.net ratings are based on major standardized tests for each state. Those places with a rating that indicates performance better than 60 percent of public schools statewide appear.
Has Nursing and Residential Care Facilities
Places with a nursing and residential care facility.
Percentage under Age 50
The proportion of the population aged 50 or under is based on U.S. Census data and projections by Onboard Informatics.
The proportion of the population aged 55 or over is based on U.S. Census data and projections by Onboard Informatics.
Is Near a School Found in America's Best Colleges
This is based on the distance from the center of the place. The rankings referred to are for the rankings published in August 2008.
Is Near a School Found in America's Best Graduate Schools
This is based on the distance from the center of the place. The rankings referred to are for the rankings published in April 2008.
This is based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, aggregated to the county level.
Cost of Living
This is based on the AACRA Q4 2006 COLI publication produced by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER).
Places where at least one job sector selected has at least the average employment rate for all 2,000 places. Some job sectors were combined.
A place is considered to have low crime if its overall crime is less than 85 percent of the national average. It's considered to have average crime if overall crime is between 85 percent and 115 percent, and high crime if overall crime is above 115%.
Cost of Living
A place is considered to have a low cost of living if the cost of living for that place is less than 95 percent of the national average, average if between 95 percent and 105 percent, and high if above 105 percent.
A place is considered to have limited healthcare if it has no hospital within its boundaries, basic if there is a hospital within the boundaries but no residential nursing home or home health care services, and comprehensive if there is both a hospital and at least one residential nursing home or home health care services.
A place is considered to have low housing prices if the ratio of the median home sale price to the median income is less than 3.5, average if the ratio is between 3.5 and five, or high if the ratio is greater than five.
A place is considered to have low income if the cost-of-living adjusted median income is below $42,500, average if between $42,500 and $57,500, or high if above $57,500.
Updated on 06/10/09: A previous version of this article used the former version of the name Onboard Informatics.
Updated on 7/01/09