Sane places to live in America? This one map will show you

100bestzipsteaserWhere are the most economically sane places to live in America?  The map below is an attempt to answer that question.

I recently wrote about data revealing the top places to live in America with affordable homes, jobs, and good schools.  In The Restless Project, I’ve explained that many American cities are simply unaffordable because their housing markets are screwed up — people with average-paying jobs can’t afford average-priced homes, and that’s the end of that.  Live there, and there’s no way out of the money quicksand for most people, lottery winners excepted.

The folks at RealtyTrac have been working with me to fine-tune these elusive concepts of affordabilty, and lately, we’ve turned to the opposite end of the story: Where are the inexpensive homes near plentiful  employment opportunities? Do such places exist with above-average schools? The happy answer is yes: RealtyTrac says there’s 489 of then scattered around the country.

Consider this a new phase of The Restless Project: the “Where should I live?” phase.

A few days ago, when I published the top 20, plenty of readers wrote asking to see the entire list. You’ll have to ask RealtyTrac for that….I didn’t think it fair to give away all their work..but here is a nifty map of the top 100.  Hover over a circle and you’ll get raw employment, housing, and school data for each zip code that made the top 100.

A few observations about the map:

1) Where are the coasts?  Nowhere.  NYC, SF, Seattle, L.A.  Nothing affordable with good schools and jobs. But you probably already knew that.

2) Go east, young people? I thought we were supposed to head  west for opportunities?  You don’t see many circles west of the Mississippi. (NOTE: You rarely think of Oklahoma as a hotbed of opportunity, but there it is)

3) Back to a discussion of the complete list of 490, cities with the highest amount of affordable zip codes with good schools were led by Orlando, Fla., (9), Raleigh, N.C. (8), Phoenix, Ariz., (6), followed by five cities each with five affordable zip codes with good schools: Chandler, Ariz., Colorado Springs, Colo., Grand Rapids, Mich., Lexington, Ky., and Wilmington, N.C. States with the most affordable zip codes with good schools were New York (105), North Carolina (66), Florida (62), Illinois (50), and Michigan (40).

NOTES: To qualify: schools had test scores that were at least one-third higher than their state’s average. The intra-state standard means a better school in a state where education is better overall could be penalized.  And of course, school scoring is fraught with peril anyway.  The unemployment rate criteria is simpler — 5.9 percent or lower.  And affordability means home payments (using the formula we used last time) are 33 percent of income or lower.

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About Bob Sullivan 1536 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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  1. Housing prices far outpace incomes -- even in smaller U.S. cities now. Restless Project, the pandemic edition —

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