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Led by Sammamish at No. 12, five towns in the Seattle metro area ranked among the top 100 Best Small Cities in America, according to a recent analysis by WalletHub.

WalletHub compared more than 1,300 cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 across five metrics, including affordability, economic health, education and health, quality of life and safety. The cities were also compared across 43 livability indicators, including housing costs, quality of school systems and number of restaurants per capita. 

Sammamish was No. 12 overall among the 1,300 cities measured, finishing 30th for safety, 75th for education and health, 89th for economic health and 183rd for affordability. 

Redmond was No. 21 on the list, boosted by its ranking of nine for economic health, 81 for education and health and 113 for quality of life.

Other Seattle-area communities in the top 100 included Issaquah (37), Mercer Island (50) and Kirkland (69).


In order to determine the best small cities in America, WalletHub compared 1,319 cities across five key dimensions: 1) Affordability, 2) Economic Health, 3) Education & Health, 4) Quality of Life and 5) Safety. For our sample, we selected cities with population sizes between 25,000 and 100,000 and considered only the “city proper” in each case, excluding cities in the surrounding metro area.

We then evaluated the five dimensions using 43 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for small-city residents. Data for metrics marked with an asterisk (*) were available at the state level only. For metrics marked with two asterisks (**), we calculated population size using the square root of the population in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.

Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.

Affordability – Total Points: 20

  •          Median Household Income: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
  •          Cost of Living: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
  •          Homeownership Rate: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
  •          Housing Costs: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
    Note: This composite metric consists of:

o    Median Home Price / Median Annual Household Income

o    Median Annual Gross Rent / Median Annual Household Income

  •          Share of Households with Severe Housing Cost Burden: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)

Economic Health – Total Points: 20

  •          Population Growth: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
  •          Income Growth: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
  •          Job Growth: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
  •          Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
  •          Share of Population Living in Poverty: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
  •          Debt per Median Earnings: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
  •          Foreclosure Rate: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
  •          Share of People Who Had a Bankruptcy in the Past 12 Months: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)
  •          Median Credit Score: Full Weight (~2.22 Points)

Education & Health – Total Points: 20

  •          School-System Quality*: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “States with the Best & Worst School Systems” ranking.
  •          High School Graduation Rate: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
  •          Share of Adults Aged 25 & Older with a High School Diploma or Higher: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
  •          Percentage of Residents Who Are Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19: Double Weight (~3.33 Points)
  •          Share of Insured Population: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
  •          Premature-Death Rate: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
  •          Share of Adults in Poor or Fair Health: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
  •          Share of Live Births with Low Birthweight: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
  •          Share of Obese Adults: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
  •          Share of Physically Inactive Adults: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
  •          Limited Access to Healthy Foods: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
    Note: "Limited Access to Healthy Foods" refers to the share of population that is low income and does not live close to a grocery store.

Quality of Life – Total Points: 20

  •          Average Commute Time: Full Weight (~1.25 Points)
  •          Share of Population Who Walk to Work: Full Weight (~1.25 Points)
  •          Average Weekly Work Hours: Full Weight (~1.25 Points)
  •          Number of Attractions: Double Weight (~2.50 Points)
  •          Restaurants per Capita**: Full Weight (~1.25 Points)
  •          Bars per Capita**: Full Weight (~1.25 Points)
  •          Clubs per Capita**: Full Weight (~1.25 Points)
  •          Coffee Shops per Capita**: Full Weight (~1.25 Points)
  •          Movie Theaters per Capita**: Full Weight (~1.25 Points)
  •          Museums per Capita**: Full Weight (~1.25 Points)
  •          Performing Arts Centers per Capita**: Full Weight (~1.25 Points)
  •          Fitness Centers per Capita**: Full Weight (~1.25 Points)
  •          Bike Rental Facilities per Capita**: Full Weight (~1.25 Points)
  •          Parks per Capita**: Full Weight (~1.25 Points)
  •          Department Stores per Capita**: Full Weight (~1.25 Points)

Safety – Total Points: 20

  •          Violent-Crime Rate: Double Weight (~8.00 Points)
  •          Property-Crime Rate: Double Weight (~8.00 Points)
  •          Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths per Capita: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)

Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Areavibes, TransUnion, TripAdvisor, County Health Rankings, Yelp, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, ATTOM Data Solutions (RealtyTrac) and WalletHub research.

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