How we ranked the best suburbs in America

We recently published our annual ranking of the 50 best suburbs in the US. Here’s how we made that ranking.

We started out by looking at 2,754 municipalities across the country with populations between 5,000 and 100,000 that are located within a metropolitan statistical area and had both crime and socioeconomic data available. There’s no official definition of a “suburb,” so we decided that small to mid-size towns and cities located near and economically integrated with a major city was a good starting point.

For each of those towns, we looked at several social and economic variables from the Census Bureau’s 2009-2013 American Community Survey estimates:

  • Average commute to work
  • Unemployment rate
  • Median household income
  • Poverty rate
  • Per cent of population with at least a bachelor’s degree
  • Housing affordability, measured as per cent of households who own their own home and spend less than 30% of gross income on mortgage and other housing costs

We also took 2013 violent and property crime rates from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report program.

To get an initial ranking, we rescaled each of those variables to a common normalized scale and added the resulting scores together. For the top 200 of towns on that intermediate ranking, we added in, where available, bonus points based on ratings of the towns’ schools from After factoring in those bonus points from school ratings, we came up with our final ranking.

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