Insight: Livability

“The place we choose to live affects every aspect of our being. It can determine the income we earn, the people we meet, the friends we make, the partners we choose, and the options available to our children and families.”
– Richard Florida: Who’s Your City?

More than ever, the decision of where to live has become one of the most important decisions we can make, as it can influence numerous aspects of our lives. Recently, more and more factors are influencing this choice, as employment is not always the primary reason for many. Amenities, housing values, demographics, infrastructure, walkability and many other attributes, can influence this decision, and since people, are the greatest form of capital through their knowledge and creativity, many regions are trying to develop their communities to attract this hot commodity. aims to help individuals with this important decision by exploring what makes small to mid-sized cities great places to live, work and visit, by examining numerous attributes from cultural amenities and sustainability to walkability and transportation. Recently we partnered with to create a list of the Top 100 Best Places to Live for 2014. This Insight presents the results from this project.

For the 2014 Top 100 Best Places to Live we calculated an overall Livability Score for each small to medium-sized city (with a population less than 350,000) within the U.S. and from this determined the top 100 cities. The list presents the top 100 cities, not metros in the U.S. The Livability Score was generated from a variety of data in numerous categories that was combined to create the overall score. The categories are as follows: Economics, Healthcare, Social & Civic Capital, Education, Amenities, Demographics, and Infrastructure. Within each of these categories, data from many sources was combined to create a score for each category. For a full explanation of the metrics please look to the report’s explanation found here.

According to our Livability Score, Palo Alto, California is 2014’s Best Place to Live in the US. Home of Stanford University, numerous Tech companies and beautiful amenities, Palo Alto scored the highest partially thanks to very high Education and Amenities scores. Palo Alto barely beat out Boulder, Colorado and Berkley, California for the top spot, as both Boulder and Berkley also scored highly in regards to Education and Amenities. The top ten is rounded out by a variety of cities from numerous states including: Durham, NC; Miami Beach, FL; Rochester, MN; Salt Lake City, UT; Eugene, OR; Reno, NV; and Rockville, MD. Within the top ten, most of these cities were found to have fairly even scores across all of the categories, with Healthcare, Education and Amenities receiving fairly high scores. Where these cities received lower scores was generally in regards to Housing and Economics. These two categories encompass a broad range of indicators from affordability and housing costs to income inequality, which is why some of the top ten Best Places to live received lower scores in these categories. While Palo Alto came in first overall, the city did not have a top 5 score within the individual categories; this was generally the case with all of top 20 Best Places to Live. To see the cities with the highest scores within each individual category look to the chart found here.

Exhibit 1: LivScore

Exhibit 1 presents the top 100 cities with the highest Livability scores. The cities are demarcated by colour according to their Livability score with the darker the shade indicating a higher score. By clicking an individual city, the score for that city across each of the categories is displayed. As the map displays, the top 100 Best Cities to Live are fairly evenly spread out across the different U.S. states. California was found to be the state with the most cities within the top 100, with 26 cities. This is much larger than the next two states with the second (Florida with 7 cities) and third (Washington with 6 cities) highest number of cities within the top 100. What is also interesting about the results found from California, is that while cities in other states that are presented on the map are generally dispersed throughout the state, in California there are two main clusters in which a large number of cities that are within the top 100 are located. The two clusters of dots surround the Los Angeles and San Francisco metros, as many cities have developed quite successfully around some of the U.S.’s largest cities.

The Martin Prosperity Institute is constantly examining the livability of cities and regions across many different attributes and indicators. Working with, we created the 2014 Top 100 Best Places to Live in order to provide the general public with an extensive view of livability within small and medium-sized cities in the U.S. While the study provides a ranking of all of the cities, it also provides scores across all of the indicators as we realize that livability means different things to different people. The place we choose to call home is an important decision and it can influence and be influenced by many differing factors making the availability of such data all the more important.

Download this Insight (PDF)

The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.