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Austin is the best U.S. city to live in

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Take that, Denver!

Downtown at dusk as seen from across the lake, with lighted towers reflected in water
Austin skyline
LoneStar Mike/Creative Commons

Travel + Leisure might like us, but U.S. News & World Report really, really likes us.

Austin was just ranked No. 1 on the latter’s 2017 list of the Best Places to Live in America:

“U.S. News analyzed 100 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there. Austin ranks as #1 with an overall score of 7.8 out of 10.“ - U.S. News & World Report

The publication’s analysis is more extensive than that found in some other studies, with an impressive breakdown of data covering:

  • Desirability (where we get an 8.4—what? No 10?)
  • Value (a 7.3, better than one would think, considering our affordability issues)
  • Job Market (only 7.5, a bit lower than we would have expected)
  • Quality of Life (7.3, again, seems a little low)
  • Net Migration (9.8, which is probably the most quantitative measure)

Keep in mind that the rankings are for is for the metro area, which includes five different counties, measures more than 4,000 square miles, and has more than 2 million residents.

The high net migration is not exactly news—our population has been exploding for a while now—and our cost-of-living numbers are kept somewhat in check by our lack of personal or corporate income tax and “a low state and local tax rate,” according to the report.

The value score comes from comparing median income to median housing sales prices and makes more sense when one considers that we’ve seen an influx of high-paying jobs driven largely by our growing tech economy and the other industries it boosts in turn (construction, service) as it attracts more workers.

A few other insights:

  • “Austin is among the nation's worst metro areas for traffic congestion,” reads the analysis. We drive, walk, and bike at about the same rates as other cities in the study, but use less public transportation. Go figure.
  • Our typical commutes are 26.2 minutes, slightly (but only slightly) more than the national average.
  • Austin is not “geographically diverse,” which means different ethnic and economic groups are still largely segregated by neighborhood.
  • Average temperatures range from 50.6 to 82.7 degrees, which is hard to remember in the middle of August (average high 97 degrees).
  • The largest percentage of residents are under the age of 20, while the next largest age group is 35-44—which, we’re guessing, indicates a lot of families are settling here.

In July, Travel + Leisure published a completely different kind of study (based on reader responses) that ranked Austin ninth on its World’s Best Cities list.

Whether we’re first or ninth, these kinds of lists probably aren’t the main reason people move here. Jobs, attitudes, nature, culture, and community are hard to quantify. But it’s fun when people try.

Best Places to Live [U.S. News & Word Report]