DC drops 11 spots in latest U.S. News ‘Best Places to Live’ ranking

Despite a stable job market and good quality of life, D.C.'s high cost of living and a migration of people out of the city caused the District to plummet 11 spots to No. 19 on the list of the top 125 places to live in the U.S.

A year ago, the District ranked No. 8 on the Best Places to Live ranking from U.S. News and World Report. This year, it’s a much different story.

Despite a stable job market and good quality of life, D.C.’s high cost of living and a number of people leaving the city prompted the magazine to drop the District 11 spots to No. 19 on the list of the top 125 places to live in the U.S.

For the third straight year, Austin, Texas took the top spot, while a number of seemingly popular cities in the northeastern part of the country failed to crack the top 20.

For example, while many people are drawn to the bright lights and skyscrapers of New York, the Big Apple checks in way down the list at No. 90.

The publication compiled its list based on the following rubric: a city’s job market strength, including jobs and median income, was worth 20%; its cost of living was worth 25%; quality of life , including schools and morning commute time, was worth 30%; and the combination of whether people wanted to move to a city and the net number of people moving into or leaving a city (desirability index and net migration) were worth a cumulative 25%.

Data in the rankings came from the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. News’ own research.

“D.C still performs very well, of course,” U.S. News real estate editor Devon Thorsby told WTOP — the job market is strong; median pay is high and the area’s schools are highly ranked. Still, factors such as the cost of living (24% percent of the median income, which puts D.C. in the bottom half of the list) and the morning commute (at an average 34 minutes, it’s second-worst, only better than New York) set the area back.

D.C.’s not alone — much of the Northeast didn’t fare very strongly.

“I think a lot of it is due to affordability,” Thorsby said. That is seen most clearly in housing prices, particularly around the District: “The rise in the cost of living in the D.C area, especially when the population isn’t rising rapidly … shows a bit of a disconnect between the real estate market … and what the existing population in the area can afford.”

Cities with a big jump between 2018 and this year included Asheville, North Carolina (24 to 16) and Sarasota, Florida (34 to 18). See the full ranking in the table below:

1 Austin  TX
2 Denver  CO
3 Colorado Springs  CO
4 Fayetteville  AR
5 Des Moines  IA
6 Minneapolis-St. Paul  MN
7 San Francisco  CA
8 Portland  OR
9 Seattle  WA
10 Raleigh/Durham  NC
11 Huntsville  AL
12 Madison  WI
13 Grand Rapids  MI
14 San Jose  CA
15 Nashville  TN
16 Asheville  NC
17 Boise  ID
18 Sarasota  FL
19 Washington  DC
20 Charlotte  NC
21 Dallas-Fort Worth  TX
22 Greenville  SC
23 Portland  ME
24 Salt Lake City  UT
25 Melbourne  FL
26 Phoenix  AZ
27 Boston  MA
28 Albany  NY
29 Lexington-Fayette  KY
30 Houston  TX
31 Winston-Salem  NC
32 Omaha  NE
33 Reno  NV
34 San Antonio  TX
35 Fort Myers  FL
36 San Diego  CA
37 Pensacola  FL
38 Indianapolis  IN
39 Cincinnati  OH
40 Fort Wayne  IN
41 Lansing  MI
42 Jacksonville  FL
43 Manchester  NH
44 Harrisburg  PA
45 Charleston  SC
46 Knoxville  TN
47 Hartford  CT
48 Lancaster  PA
49 Kansas City  MO
50 Pittsburgh  PA
51 Columbus  OH
52 Buffalo  NY
53 Richmond  VA
54 Syracuse  NY
55 Chattanooga  TN
56 Tampa  FL
57 Atlanta  GA
58 Rochester  NY
59 Lakeland  FL
60 Honolulu  HI
61 Milwaukee  WI
62 Worcester  MA
63 Orlando  FL
64 Louisville  KY
65 Spokane  WA
66 Greensboro  NC
67 Columbia  SC
68 Oklahoma City  OK
69 Dayton  OH
70 Anchorage  AK
71 Las Vegas  NV
72 Augusta  GA
73 Santa Barbara  CA
74 Santa Rosa  CA
75 Myrtle Beach  SC
76 Tucson  AZ
77 Salem  OR
78 Port St. Lucie  FL
79 Wichita  KS
80 Springfield  MO
81 St. Louis  MO
82 Sacramento  CA
83 Tulsa  OK
84 Reading  PA
86 Springfield  MA
86 Springfield  MA
87 York  PA
88 Little Rock  AR
89 Birmingham  AL
90 New York  NY
91 Providence  RI
92 Detroit  MI
93 Allentown  PA
94 Toledo  OH
95 New Haven  CT
96 Lafayette  LA
97 Youngstown  OH
98 Scranton  PA
99 Daytona Beach  FL
100 Baltimore  MD
101 Killeen  TX
102 Philadelphia  PA
103 Virginia Beach  VA
104 Chicago  IL
105 Corpus Christi  TX
106 Albuquerque  NM
107 Los Angeles  CA
108 Beaumont  TX
109 Baton Rouge  LA
110 El Paso  TX
111 Jackson  MS
112 McAllen  TX
113 Miami  FL
114 New Orleans  LA
115 Flint  MI
116 Brownsville  TX
117 Salinas  CA
118 Memphis  TN
119 Fresno  CA
120 Modesto  CA
121 Mobile  AL
122 Shreveport  LA
123 Stockton  CA
124 Bakersfield  CA
125 San Juan  PR

WTOP’s Rick Massimo contributed to this report.

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