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Best Places to Live & Retire Rankings FAQs

The U.S. News & World Report Best Places rankings are based on an analysis of public data and user opinions. To top a list, a place must earn high scores in criteria such as desirability and quality of life.

Best Places to Live FAQ

Why rank places to live?

U.S. News & World Report specializes in helping people make major life decisions, and where you choose to live is one of the biggest decisions of all. Where you live determines the employment opportunities you’ll have, the income you’ll be able to earn and save, and the quality of health care and education you and your family will have access to.

How were the places chosen?

For the 2020-21 Best Places to Live rankings, we selected the 150 largest metro areas by population as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau. The list of places we rank will continue to grow, so check back often for new articles, rankings and features.

How was the methodology determined?

We rank the Best Places to Live using a methodology that takes into account the following factors: the value of living there, the quality of life there, the health of the job market there, whether people want to live there and lastly, whether people are actually moving there. When determining the importance of each of these factors, we polled roughly 3,000 internet users across the country. The weightings in the methodology are a direct reflection of the responses we received from the survey.

We took this same approach when calculating the Desirability Index. We received responses from approximately 3,000 people across the country and used the results to interpret the Desirability Index.

Learn more about how we rank the Best Places to Live.

Where did the data come from?

In addition to the information we sourced through our surveys, we collected data from a number of different government and nongovernmental sources, including:

Lastly, we pulled from U.S. News’ own Best High Schools and Best Hospitals rankings to determine the quality of available education and health care. We also used our own survey information.

What if a place is missing a piece of data?

If there is a piece of data missing for a metro area on our ranking, we eliminated that scoring component and adjusted the weighting of other scoring components for which we have data so that no metro area was affected by missing data. For example, if we didn’t have a Net Migration score for San Juan, Puerto Rico, rather than marking it as a "0" or the average score (which could unjustly lower or raise the overall score), we simply eliminated the scoring category and adjusted the weighting of the other indexes to account for the missing 10% of the Overall Score.

How often will the rankings be refreshed?

The Best Places to Live rankings will be refreshed once a year.


Best Places to Retire FAQ

Why rank the top metro areas for retirement?

While many of today’s retirees stay in the same town they lived in before leaving the workforce, many others downsize their homes, move closer to family or seek a more retirement-friendly place to live.

The Best Places to Retire rankings are intended to help Americans evaluate where to live in retirement. U.S. News conducted this analysis for the 150 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., which cover where the majority of retirees and non-retirees live. If you’re considering a move, you may end up in one of these spots.

How was the methodology determined?

U.S. News evaluated 150 of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., including Puerto Rico, for the 2020-21 Best Places to Retire rankings. Smaller cities and regions, including some that are popular with retirees, were not included in the analysis.

The rankings are based on overall retirement scores that we calculated for each city included in the analysis. The overall retirement score is a weighted average of six indexes. The overall retirement score and each index score were calculated on a 10-point scale. The six indexes are Housing Affordability, Happiness, Desirability, Retiree Taxes, Job Market and Health Care Quality.

The weights for each index were determined based on an online survey conducted by U.S. News in August 2020 of those nearing retirement age (45-59) and those who are retirement age (60 or older).

Where did the data come from?

In addition to information sourced through our proprietary U.S. News surveys, we collected data from U.S. News internal sources and a number of government and nongovernmental sources, including:

What if a place is missing a piece of data?

Consistent with our Best Places to Live rankings, if a piece of data is missing for a metro area in our ranking, we eliminate that scoring component for that metro area and adjust the weighting of the scoring components for which we have data. The total possible score remains on a 10-point scale.

How often will the rankings be refreshed?

The Best Places to Retire ranking is updated annually. However, we provide extensive editorial coverage of retirement strategies and locales throughout the year.

Read the Best Places to Retire Methodology.