These Are The Best Small Cities in America, According to Research

published Oct 9, 2022
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Have you been dreaming of small city life lately? You’re not alone. A Pew Research Center study found that half of Americans (46%) say they would prefer to live in the suburbs, compared to 19% for urban areas and 35% for rural areas.

Small cities offer a balance between big city and country life, often providing residents with shorter commutes and fewer degrees of separation from their neighbors. But when it comes to small cities, which are the best of the best?

Personal finance education site WalletHub has released its report on 2022’s best small cities in America. To do so, the WalletHub team compared over 1,300 U.S. cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000, analyzing them across 42 key indicators of livability. These indicators range from school-system quality to cost of living to restaurants per capita.

Interested in making a home outside the concrete jungle? Here are the top five small cities in the United States:

5. Brentwood, TN

Population: 47,035

Median household income: $219,628

Median home value: 682,100

Median monthly rent: $2,033

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This sleepy Nashville suburb is best-known for its rolling hills, picturesque neighborhoods, and stellar public schools — in fact, Brentwood, TN is home to some of the highest-ranked schools in Tennessee. Plus, since it’s home to major companies like LifeWay and Tractor Supply Company, you can rely on it for robust employment opportunities.

4. Lexington, MA

Population: 35,066

Median household income: $231,819

Median home value: $933,800

Median monthly rent: $2,431

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Known for Lexington Common (a.k.a. Boston Green), where the first shot of the American Revolutionary War was fired, Lexington, MA has plenty to offer 21st century Americans, as well. Apart from its rich history and highly-rated school system, the city also sits just 10 miles from all the opportunities and culture of Downtown Boston.

3. Fair Lawn, NJ

Population: 35,421

Median household income: $142,924

Median home value: $439,100

Median monthly rent: $1,826

When The New York Times literally reports that a town “smells like cookies,” you know it’s the real deal. Located just 12 miles northwest of New York City, Fair Lawn, NJ boasts a diverse community, an ever-growing public school system, and dozens of public parks. There are also plenty of entry-level homes available, so you can enjoy the big city delights of the Big Apple and the small town comforts of Fair Lawn at the same time.

2. Carmel, IN

Population: 103,871

Median household income: $159,423

Median home value: $352,400

Median monthly rent: $1,247

Often cited as one of the best places to live in America, Carmel, IN has also been named one of the best places to launch a career and raise a family, and one of the safest towns in America. Residents can enjoy its Gold Medal park system, as well as the eclectic Museum of Miniature Houses and Other Collections.

1. Lancaster, PA

Population: 57,783

Median household income: $57,769

Median home value: $127,500

Median monthly rent: $920

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The city of Lancaster, PA takes the top spot this year. While it’s well-known for hosting one of the oldest Amish communities in the country, Lancaster’s bustling contemporary art scene and rolling green spaces offer a balance between rural living and artsy small city opportunities. With a local Kellogg’s plant and Mars Chocolate North America nearby, the area enjoys a strong job market. Recently, Lancaster ranked fifth on US News’ list of the top places to retire in the U.S.