We found the 30 best American cities to live in after the pandemic

Image
Fargo, North Dakota, is the fifth-best place to move to after the coronavirus pandemic. Shutterstock
  • Some people might be considering moving to a new part of the US after the coronavirus pandemic.
  • We used nine metrics for 380 US metro areas to calculate an overall score that we used to find the best cities to move to after the pandemic.
  • Some of the 30 best cities to move to are in Illinois, Iowa, and Wyoming.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The pandemic has brought on new changes for many Americans, including working from home for the first time or having to temporarily relocate. If you are considering permanently moving to a new place after the novel coronavirus pandemic, you may want to consider one of these 30 US cities.

Recent polling has suggested that many Americans are thinking about moving. The news website Axios reported in late April on a Harris Poll survey that found that about one-third of Americans said they were thinking about moving to less densely populated places. And research from Moody’s Analytics found that less densely populated places with a larger share of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher are likely to recover first from the economic impact of the pandemic.

During stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the virus, more and more Americans have transitioned to working from their homes. In a Gallup analysis, 62% of respondents in a survey conducted from March 30 to April 2 said they were working from home, compared with 31% of respondents in a survey conducted from March 13 to 15.

Gallup polling has indicated that even after stay-at-home orders lift and employees can return to offices, some people are thinking about working remotely at least part of the time. In a survey conducted from April 13 to 19, 53% of respondents said they would work remotely as much as they could, while 47% said they would return to the office as much as they previously did. Some companies have extended remote work into the next year, such as American Express.

Additionally, polling from Pew Research Centre found 22% of US adults moved or knew someone who moved during the pandemic. The moving resource site HireAHelper found there have been more people moving in than out in states like Idaho and New Mexico since March.

Based on moving surveys and an uptick in telework, Business Insider decided to find out which cities could be the best to live in after the coronavirus pandemic for those Americans seeking a new home and planning to continue remote work.

You can read more about our methods and sources at the end of our ranking. A more detailed version of our method and metrics can also be found here.

Here are the 30 best cities to live in after the coronavirus pandemic, based on our analysis:


30. Sierra Vista, Arizona

Image

Sierra Vista’s cost of living – the metro area’s price level of goods and services compared with the US’s – is 11.2% lower than the national average. About 78.2% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, which is a higher share than in most metro areas.


29. Mankato, Minnesota

Image

Mankato has the fifth-shortest weekly commute at two hours and 50 minutes. The unemployment rate in July was 5.9%, lower than most metro areas.


28. Peoria, Illinois

Image

Peoria is among the 100 metro areas with the lowest cost-of-living scores, at 12% lower than the national average. Average housing costs in this metro area are about $US894 a month.


27. Danville, Illinois

Image

Danville’s cost of living is 21.4% lower than the national average. The city’s population density of 84.3 people per square mile is also lower than in most metro areas.


26. Waterloo, Iowa

Image

In Waterloo, nearly 80% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, indicating better housing affordability than most metro areas. The cost of living is about 10.4% less than the national average.


25. Ithaca, New York

Image

Ithaca has the seventh-highest total spending per student in elementary and secondary public schools, where the school district in the metro area with the most students enrolled spends $US21,220 per pupil. The metro area also has the third-largest share of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher, at 56.9%.


24. Dubuque, Iowa

Image

In Dubuque, 74.7% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, which is a higher share than in most metro areas. Average housing costs in this metro are are also around $US931 a month.


23. Walla Walla, Washington

Image

In Walla Walla, 75.2% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, a higher share than in most metro areas. The cost of living is only 3.5% less than the national average.


22. Wausau, Wisconsin

Image

In Wausau, 79.2% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, the 16th-highest share among metro areas, and average housing costs are around $US866 a month.


21. La Crosse, Wisconsin

Image

In La Crosse, 74.3% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, which is higher than in most metro areas. It is among the 100 metro areas with a short weekly commute to and from work, at three hours and 25 minutes.


20. Omaha, Nebraska

Image

Omaha’s unemployment rate was 5.9% in July, 3 percentage points higher than its February rate. Omaha’s cost of living is 7.9% lower than the national average. 38.9% of jobs could be done from home in Omaha, a higher share than in most metro areas.


19. Grand Forks, North Dakota

Image

About 37.7% of people aged 25 and over have at least a bachelor’s in Grand Forks, among the 100 metro areas with the large shares of high educational attainment. The metro area has the seventh-shortest weekly commute at two hours and 53 minutes.


18. Lansing, Michigan

Image

Lansing is among the metro areas with the highest share of jobs that could be done from home, at 41%. Lansing’s cost of living is 8.8% lower than the national average.


17. Logan, Utah

Image

In Logan, nearly 72.3% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing. Logan’s pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 2%, tied for the second lowest among the metro areas. In July, the metro area had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.5%.


16. Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Image

In Cedar Rapids, nearly 80% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, the 15th-highest share among metro areas. The metro area’s cost of living is 11.5% lower than the national average and among the 100 metro areas with low costs of living.


15. Rochester, New York

Image

The Rochester metro area school district with the most students enrolled spends a total of $US24,943 per pupil in elementary and secondary public schools, the second-highest amount among metro areas. And 39.3% of jobs could be done from home, a higher share than in most metro areas.


14. Columbia, Missouri

Image

About 44.0% of residents aged 25 and over have a bachelor’s degree in this metro area, a higher share than in most metro areas. The weekly commute to and from work in Columbia is three hours and 22 minutes, shorter than most metro areas.


13. Madison, Wisconsin

Image

In Madison, 42.6% of jobs could be done from home – a higher share than in most metro areas. The pre-coronavirus unemployment rate of 2.6% was lower than the national rate. This February rate is 3.3 percentage points lower than July’s rate of 5.9%.


12. Cheyenne, Wyoming

Image

Among the metro areas, Cheyenne has the ninth-shortest weekly commute to and from work, at two hours and 55 minutes. The metro area also has the 18th lowest population density, at roughly 37.1 people per square mile.


11. Des Moines, Iowa

Image

The unemployment rate in the Des Moines metro area rose to 7.1% in July from 2.7% in February. Additionally, 42.7% of jobs could be done from home, the 17th-highest share among metro areas.


10. Lincoln, Nebraska

Image

Lincoln’s unemployment rate in July was the eighth-lowest among metro areas at 4.8%. The pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 2.7%, lower than the national average in February. About 73.6% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing in this metro area.


9. Huntsville, Alabama

Image

Huntsville’s unemployment rate was 6.0% in July, 3.8 percentage points higher than in February. About 41.5% of jobs could be done from home, a higher share than in most metro areas.


8. Topeka, Kansas

Image

Topeka’s cost of living is 11.5% lower than the national average. About 37.7% of jobs could also be done in this metro area, making it part of the top 100 metro areas.


7. Bismarck, North Dakota

Image

In Bismarck, 76.9% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, indicating a better housing affordability than in most metro areas. There are about 30.1 people per square mile in the metro area, the 15th lowest among metro areas.


6. Ames, Iowa

Image

Ames had the fifth lowest unemployment rate among metro areas in July at 4.5%, 2.5 percentage points higher than the rate in February. Additionally, 44.6% of residents who are at least 25 years old have a bachelor’s degree or higher, among the 25 metro areas with the high educational attainment.


5. Fargo, North Dakota

Image

Fargo had the 19th-lowest unemployment rate among the metro areas in July at 5.4%. The metro area’s pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 2.1%, tied for the fourth lowest among metro areas. The weekly commute to and from work in Fargo is three hours and 12 minutes, among the top 50 shortest commutes.


4. Springfield, Illinois

Image

Springfield’s unemployment rate rose to 9.1% after the metro area had a rate equivalent to the national average in February at 3.5%. Nearly 43% of jobs could be done from home in this metro area, the 16th-highest share among metro areas.


3. Champaign, Illinois

Image

Champaign’s unemployment rate in July rose to 7.6% after the metro area was below the national rate in February, at 3.2%. The school district with the most students enrolled had the 20th-highest total spending per pupil in elementary and secondary public schools, at $US17,606 per pupil.


2. Jefferson City, Missouri

Image

Jefferson City’s cost of living is 18.3% lower than the national average and the fifth lowest among metro areas. About 80.1% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, the 11th highest share among the metro areas.


1. Bloomington, Illinois

Image

The share of jobs that could be done from home in Bloomington is 39.4%, and 77.8% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing; both shares are higher than in most metro areas.


Methodology

To find the best cities, we used nine economic, educational, and demographic metrics from government data sources and academic research that we think people might consider when moving and that could help a metro area recover faster from the economic effects of the pandemic.

These measures are the most recent unemployment rate, ability to work from home, population density, housing affordability, monthly household costs, cost of living, weekly two-way work commute, total elementary- and secondary-school spending per student, and share of residents age 25 and over who have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Each measure was rescaled to a uniform z-score, allowing us to add the values together to get a final overall index for each metro area that we then used to rank the 30 metro areas at the top of the list.

You can read more about our method and data collection here.