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Best Cities, States & Places

Criteria for Our Best Cities Picks

Here's how our 25 favorites made the cut.

Our Best Cities for every life stage were chosen with customization in mind. We think you'll find one that suits your tastes.

But first, the common themes. The metro areas were all chosen because they have a strong creative class, including scientists, engineers, architects, educators, writers, artists and entertainers. Richard Florida, a professor of public policy at George Mason University and author of The Rise of the Creative Class, has written that such people inject vitality into a city and make it a vibrant place to live.

Other common criteria include job growth, per-capita income growth and measures of innovation, such as patents per capita. Key considerations are tolerance and diversity -- great indicators that outsiders are welcome.

We used other criteria to come up with cities that are appropriate for various life stages. One of those is simply that people like to be with people who are like themselves. So, for example, Washington, D.C., gets high marks for young professionals because many young professionals already live there. Our cities for young singles also have high numbers of bars and restaurants per capita. Cities for families rank high in education and low in crime. Cities for empty-nesters have a significant number of performing-arts employees per capita. Cities for retirees have easy access to health care and low crime rates.


A city's affordability was another critical factor. To score high for retirees, for example, a place must have relatively low health-care costs. For mid-level professionals, housing affordability is important, and for families and empty-nesters, the overall cost of living counts (100 is average).

The bohemian indicator shows the concentration of writers, designers, musicians, actors and other arts-related personnel, and is a comparative measure of an area's diversity and cultural amenities (100 represents the national average in our index, so a higher or lower indicator shows a higher/lower concentration). Finally, metro areas of varying sizes are recommended for each life stage.

Kevin Stolarick, from Carnegie Mellon University, Catalytix and the Richard Florida Creativity Group, developed and performed the quantitative analysis that led to our selections.

Here is a breakdown of how the Kiplinger/Richard Florida 25 Best Cities were selected:


All cities were judged of the strength of their "3T's." These are technology, talent and tolerance. This boils down to presence of high-tech workers and businesses, the talent level of the workforce and the tolerance for all types of people. A fourth factor included here is economic growth.


  • Singles: 25-29

  • Mid-Professionals: Married, no kids, or single, 30-44

  • Families: Married, with kids, through 64

  • Empty Nesters: Married, no kids or single 45-64

  • Retirees: 65 or above


For specific life-stage groups, these cost factors were weighted more heavily:

  • For singles: rental affordability (rental costs as a percent of household income)

  • For mid-professionals: home ownership affordability (home costs as a percent of household income)

  • For families: overall cost-of-living index.

  • For empty nesters: overall cost-of-living index

  • For retirees: health-care cost index


In addition, there were other lifestyle factors that were given extra consideration.

  • For singles: The "bohemian index" and food/drink dstablishments per capita. The Bohemian indicator shows the concentration of writers, designers, musicians, actors and other arts-related workers, and is a measure of on area's diversity and cultural amenities.

  • For mid professionals: average commute time and creative class wage growth

  • For families: crime rate and student/teacher ratio

  • For empty nesters: performing arts employees per capita and golf courses/marinas per capita

  • For retirees: crime rate and physicians per capita