This story originally appeared on SmartAsset.com.
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, more than 17% of American households earn between $50,000 and $74,999, making that the income bracket comprising the highest number of people. This large cohort may not be among the most handsomely paid in the U.S., but strategically living in a place with robust employment opportunities and a lower cost of living can help Americans stretch their dollars further and enable them to sock away ample savings.
With that in mind, SmartAsset decided to find the best cities in America for those with an annual income of $60,000, the sweet-spot of this range.
This is SmartAsset’s second annual study on the best places to live on a $60,000 salary. Read the 2019 version here.
Data and methodology
To find the best cities in the U.S. to live on a $60,000 salary, SmartAsset first created a list of the cities in which the population was at least 60,000 people and the median household income was between $55,000 and $65,000. We did this in order to find the cities where an income of $60,000 fell within the range of an average household. This resulted in a list of 97 cities, which we compared across the following nine metrics:
- Median household income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 one-year American Community Survey.
- Median monthly housing costs. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 one-year American Community Survey.
- Housing costs as a percentage of income. We calculated this by finding the median monthly housing costs as a percentage of a $60,000 salary. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 one-year American Community Survey.
- Entertainment establishments per 10,000 residents. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 Business Patterns Survey. It is measured at the county level.
- Civic establishments per 10,000 residents. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 Business Patterns Survey. It is measured at the county level.
- Percentage of people without health insurance. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 one-year American Community Survey.
- Average commute time. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 one-year American Community Survey.
- Unemployment rate. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is for July 2020.
- Poverty rate. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 one-year American Community Survey.
First, we ranked each city in each metric. From there, we calculated the average ranking for each city, assigning each metric an equal weight. Using this average ranking, we created our final score. The city with the highest average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.
10. Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky, had the seventh-lowest July 2020 unemployment rate of the 97 cities we analyzed, at 5.7%. Median monthly housing costs in Lexington total $991, which is 19.82% of a $60,000 budget (a top-25 rate).
Lexington also ranked 10th out of 97 for its relatively high number of civic establishments, at 11.98 per 10,000 residents.
9. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has monthly median housing costs of $902, which is 18.04% of a $60,000 income. The city places seventh in our study on both of those metrics.
Cedar Rapids has two other top-15 metrics: It ranks 12th overall for the relatively low percentage of people without health insurance (5.5%) and 13th overall for average commute time (18.7 minutes).
8. Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha, Nebraska, had the 11th-lowest July 2020 unemployment rate in the study, coming in at 6.4%. The city placed 20th for its relatively low poverty rate, with 11.6% of the population living below the poverty line.
Omaha is fairly expensive, with median monthly housing costs of $1,044, which represents 20.88% of a $60,000 income — ranking 31st out of 97 in the study for both housing costs and housing costs as a percentage of income.
7. Duluth, Minnesota
Duluth, Minnesota, has the highest number of civic establishments of any city we analyzed, at 15.62 per 10,000 residents. The city comes in third in terms of the percentage of residents without health insurance, at just 3.5%, and fifth for average commute time, at 16.8 minutes.
While Duluth has a median household income of just $55,819 — ranking 88th overall for this metric — it ranks ninth overall for both housing cost metrics we considered.
6. Appleton, Wisconsin
The July 2020 unemployment rate in Appleton, Wisconsin, was 6.1%, 10th-lowest of the 97 cities for which we considered data. Appleton’s median monthly housing costs amounted to $920 (an 11th-best ranking), representing just 18.4% of a $60,000 income (also an 11th-best ranking).
Appleton’s other top-20 ranking is for a relatively low poverty rate of 11.55.
5. Wyoming, Michigan
Wyoming, Michigan, has a poverty rate of just 8.5%, ranking fifth-best across all 97 cities we studied. Wyoming places fourth in two separate metrics related to housing costs: median monthly housing costs ($880) and median housing costs as a percentage of a $60,000 income (17.60%).
There are 12.01 civic establishments per 10,000 residents, ninth-highest overall.
4. Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, has an average commute time of just 15.1 minutes, ranking second-shortest in the study. The city placed eighth on two other metrics: median monthly housing costs ($915) and housing costs as a percentage of a $60,000 income (18.3%).
3. Lincoln, Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska, had an unemployment rate of just 5% in July 2020, the second-lowest ranking overall for this metric. The state’s capital city has 13.26 civic establishments per 10,000 residents, sixth-highest in the study.
Lincoln placed 10th overall for average commute time, with the average person going from home to work in 18.4 minutes.
2. Billings, Montana
Billings, Montana, has 13.08 civic institutions per 10,000 residents (the seventh-highest rate on this metric in the study) and 10.48 entertainment establishments per 10,000 residents (the sixth-highest rate in the study).
Only 4.4% of the population in Billings is living without health insurance — the sixth-lowest rate for this metric across all 97 cities we analyzed.
1. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
The best city to live in on a $60,000 salary is Sioux Falls, South Dakota, according to the data we analyzed. Sioux Falls came in sixth overall on two of our nine metrics: average commute time (17.4 minutes) and poverty rate (8.6%).
It also came in eighth on three other metrics: entertainment establishments (8.75 per 10,000 residents), civic establishments (13 per 10,000 residents) and July 2020 unemployment rate (5.8%).
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