8 Places in the United States Where Life is Affordable

Photo (cc) by Яick Harris

My Restless Project stories about “sane circles” where people live touched a nerve. I still get lots of traffic and questions about the concept, so I’m going in for a closer look.

In case you haven’t seen the earlier posts, I worked with RealtyTrac to find the 100 ZIP codes in America that had the most affordable homes, lowest unemployment and best schools. When plotted on a U.S. map, the results were fascinating. Outside of a few outliers, there were basically eight regions where folks seem to have it pretty good, which means average earners can afford average homes without driving themselves crazy. Those eight regions are:

  • Florida
  • North Carolina
  • Western Pennsylvania/SE Ohio/West Virginia
  • Upstate New York
  • Rural Michigan
  • Wisconsin (around Madison)
  • Illinois (both north and south)
  • Southwest Ohio/Cincinnati/North Kentucky
Clusters of counties with affordable homes, jobs and good schools. Click for more data
Clusters of counties with affordable homes, jobs and good schools. Click for more data

Mind you, this is not a “best places to live” project. This list doesn’t consider quality-of-life issues such as diversity or arts. It’s primarily an examination of affordability, meant to counter the many stories I’ve written showing how many Americans are driving themselves nuts trying to afford living in places that are by definition unaffordable.

That’s a big part of the reason people are so restless. For example, some 40 million Americans right now live in counties where their household income must be $100,000 in order for them to comfortably afford an AVERAGE-priced home.

The “sane circles” map is an attempt to find places where things aren’t so crazy. A little while ago, I wrote about Dawn Dinegan, who lives an economically comfortable life in rural Wisconsin, but only because the family is willing to tolerate 70-mile commutes.

I’d like to drill down a little more on this idea. Have you moved to one of these places recently? Are you thinking about it?

Please write to me at Bob at BobSullivan.net and tell me about the experience, or leave your comment here. Do you miss big city life? Do you wonder why people insist on paying New York or San Francisco rent?

Click to learn about The Restless Project
Click to learn about The Restless Project

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Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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