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How We Picked the Best Cities 2010

Our effort starts with smart analysis of key data, ends with personal visits to each top city.

Numbers -- such as unemployment rate, income growth, the percentage of the workforce in the "creative class" and more -- are only a fraction of the factors we considered when selecting our list of the 10 Best Cities for the Next Decade. Our process is based on the work of Kevin Stolarick, of the Martin Prosperity Institute, a think tank that studies economic prosperity. Stolarick came up with a formula that identifies cities with current and likely future growth in high-quality jobs and income. We also weighed affordability and public-transit infrastructure -- the latter being an important factor to ensure continued growth in certain metro areas. (Listen to Stolarick and Kiplinger senior editor Bob Frick discuss the evaluation process.)

Stolarick also included in the formula a measurement of the "creative class," a product of his work with Richard Florida, academic director of the Martin Institute and author of The Rise of the Creative Class. Creative-class workers -- scientists, engineers, educators, writers, artists, entertainers and others -- inject both economic and cultural vitality into a city and help make it a vibrant place to live.

We have found that the creative class roughly matches the majority of Kiplinger's readers, so it's also a good proxy for where you may want to live.

We whittled the list of candidates to ten cities based on the numbers and our preliminary reporting. To come up with our final rankings, we traveled to the top ten cities to interview business and community leaders and residents. Rankings reflect both the data and our judgments.

See how your own hometown stacks up with our sortable data on 367 U.S. metropolitan areas, and find the right city for you with our quick, easy tool.