While you may know the region or state in the U.S. you're set on calling home next, you likely still have decisions to make when it comes to which city or metro area will be the right fit. If Tennessee is your place, you have no shortage of cities, suburbs and small towns to choose from in this long, thin, southern state that spans two time zones.
You may have called Tennessee home since birth or simply like the idea of being able to choose from the mountainous, hilly or flat landscapes that make up the state. Either way, your experience can vary widely based on where in the state you put down roots.
Of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., Tennessee is home to four. We've compiled the details from the Best Places to Live in the U.S. ranking – based on information about the local job market, cost of living, access to health care and desirability, among other factors – to help you determine which major Tennessee metro area is the right fit for you.
Best Places to Live 2019 Rank: 118
Metro Population: 1,344,058
Median Home Value: $151,900
Median Annual Salary: $43,950
The second-most populous metro area in Tennessee, Memphis ranks No. 118 out of the 125 metro areas on the overall Best Places to Live list. Memphis-area residents spend less than 24.27% of the median annual household income on housing costs, including rent and mortgage payments, utility costs and property taxes. However, property and violent crime rates in the area are above the national average, and a low average college readiness score among high school students – based on data from the U.S. News' Best High Schools ranking – contribute to Memphis ranking second to last in the Quality of Life rating after San Juan, Puerto Rico. Additionally, the Memphis area's population is slowly shrinking, with the population declining by 1.97% based on net migration between 2013 and 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Best Places to Live 2019 Rank: 55
Metro Population: 548,359
Median Home Value: $164,550
Median Annual Salary: $42,870
Just north of the state's border with Georgia, Chattanooga is the smallest of the four Tennessee metro areas on the Best Places to Live list and ranks No. 55 overall. Population growth is a significant factor for Chattanooga ranking ahead of Memphis, with Chattanooga growing by a modest 2.77% due to net migration between 2013 and 2017. While the median annual salary, at $42,870, is below the national average of $50,620, area residents benefit from a particularly low cost of living, spending just 21.92% of the median annual household income on housing expenses.
Best Places to Live 2019 Rank: 46
Metro Population: 862,490
Median Home Value: $172,333
Median Annual Salary: $43,840
Knoxville ranks No. 46 out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., with a cost of living that's slightly higher than in Chattanooga. Knoxville residents spend 22.07% of the median annual household income on housing costs. Knoxville also benefits from a more active job market: Its unemployment rate is just 3.3%. Knoxville residents also benefit from an average morning commute of just 23.6 minutes.
Best Places to Live 2019 Rank: 15
Metro Population: 1,830,410
Median Home Value: $248,883
Median Annual Salary: $47,110
The most populous metro area in Tennessee is also the most widely visited, particularly because it’s considered the capital of country music. Nashville ranks No. 15 on the overall Best Places to Live list, thanks to its growth due to net migration, desirability and affordability. Between 2013 and 2017, the Nashville area grew by 6.88% due to net migration alone. Additionally, Nashville residents spend just 22.62% of the median household income on housing costs. The area also ranks 11th for desirability out of the 125 places on the list, based on a SurveyMonkey survey of 2,000 U.S. residents.
Updated on Aug. 28, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at email@example.com.
May 11, 2020
U.S. News analyzed the 150 most populous metro areas to rank places to live by category.