These Are The 10 Best Small Towns In America

We used science and data to determine the small places around America that kick some serious butt.

Chris Kolmarby Chris KolmarRankings - 2 years ago

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You’ve seen these lists before: Best places to live in the U.S., Best Suburbs, Most Beautiful Downtowns, Best Small Towns, etc., etc. There are about 20 new lists per day. But unlike these other lists, this one is actually based on numbers—not opinions or hearsay.

We’ll dive right into our methodology in the next section; but first, we thought you might just want to know which places in America ranked the based—you know, based on science. Here are the 10 Best Small Towns in America (in which to live):

  1. Spreckels, CA
  2. Jugtown, MD
  3. Albion, WA
  4. Big Creek, CA
  5. Tilghmanton, MD
  6. Ruston, WA
  7. Antietam, MD
  8. El Portal, CA
  9. Manalapan, FL
  10. Hill Country Village, TX

If you live in one of these small towns, chances are, you’re not surprised. After all, you know how great you have it. But for the rest of you—keep reading and we’ll get to just why these small towns made our list. First, a look at our methodology.

How we crunched the numbers

We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using FBI crime data, the Census’s 2010-2014 American Community Survey, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is the criteria we used:

  • Population Density (Higher is better)
  • Lowest Unemployment Rates
  • Housing costs (Higher is better. More demand.)
  • Adjusted Median Income (Higher is better)
  • College Educated (Higher is better)
  • Crime Rates* (Lower is better)

We looked at places with populations lower than 1,000 people, of which, there were a lot – 6,870 to be exact. We then ranked each place in each category with scores from 1 to 6,870, averaged them out, and the lowest scores went to our Best Small Towns. Top of that list, the adorably named Spreckels, California.

Keep reading to find out more about our top 10.

*Crime information is gathered from AreaVibes

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1. Spreckels, CA

Best Small Towns In America

Source: Google Maps

How could a town called Spreckels not make the top of our list? Okay, but seriously, it gets even more charming: the town was originally built for the Spreckels Sugar Company plant which operated there from 1899 to 1982, and this was named after its founder Claus Spreckels.

The town, today, has a median income of nearly $80,000, a median home price of over $528,000, and is one of the most densely-populated small towns in America.

And that’s pretty sweet. (Sorry, it had to be done.)

2. Jugtown, MD

Best Small Towns In America

Source: Google Maps

You know it’s a small town when the first thing that comes up with a Google search is Mapquest—simply to show you that, yes, Jugtown does exist, and yes it even has a spot on a map.

The reasons this little Maryland community made our list were its incredibly low unemployment rate—tied for the lowest in the country as a matter of fact—and its incredibly high median income—about $84,716 (adjusted). It also ranked among the best for its high median home value of $361,600, which sure, might be a bit steep if you’re not making a Jugtown salary, but it certainly shows a strong market.

3. Albion, WA

Best Small Towns In America

Source: Google Maps

This tiny town in Whitman County, just like Jugtown before it, ties for the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. That’s not all though; it ranks among the best (Number 107 out of thousands!) in the nation for its residents’ level of education, and compared to many on our list, is pretty densely-populated.

4. Big Creek, CA

Best Small Towns In America

Source: Google Maps

There are small towns and then there is Big Creek—there really is nothing big about it, with its 218 residents. Well, except, perhaps, for its residents’ income—a median of $92,500 per year.

Good news for residents, too, is that the median home price is actually not crazy high (comparatively) at $221,400, so with an adjusted income just below $100K. Plus, it ranks No. 82, out of nearly 7,000 places, for its highly educated residents.

5. Tilghmanton, MD

Best Small Towns In America

Source: Google Maps

When it comes to a low unemployment rate, Tilghmanton, Maryland is hard to beat (but apparently pretty easy to tie with, as it is the fourth No. 1 in our top 10…)

If you thought that was good, though, wait until you see what all of those employed residents are making in Tilghmanton: an adjusted income of about $103,000. Not too shabby for a small town in Maryland, eh?

6. Ruston, WA

Best Small Towns In America

Source: Google Maps

The 764 residents of Ruston are tightly packed into this little town, making it one of the most densely-populated places on our list—a good thing if you’re looking for walkability and a chance to get to know your neighbors.

The median home value of $308,500 is also among the highest in the nation, which indicates high demand for houses. And we can see why—just outside of Tacoma, nestled among some of the most beautiful nature in the world. No big deal or anything.

7. Antietam, MD

Best Small Towns In America

Source: Google Maps

With just 121 residents, Antietam is more of a large party than a small town—but rest assured, it is a real place. (A place best known for the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War! Hooray knowledge!)

Aside from that little claim to fame, residents in Antietam can enjoy one of the highest median incomes in the country, at $105,526. It’s also no surprise that they’re some of the most employed small town-dwellers in the U.S., as they are also among the best educated.

8. El Portal, CA

Best Small Towns In America

Source: Google Maps

This CDP (Census Designated Place) lies just southwest of Yosemite Village—one of the most beautiful parts of the country. Really, if you’re an outdoorsperson, El Portal might just be the small town you’ve been looking for.

Even if you’re not, though, El Portal has something to offer. How about an adjusted median income of $122,534? A median home value of over $335,000? Or (yet another) tie for the lowest unemployment rate in the country? All of that, plus being a stone’s throw from Yosemite National Park. We can see why you guys (all 458 of you) live there!

9. Manalapan, FL

Best Small Towns In America

Source: Google Maps

Remember that time we said that El Portal had a high adjusted median income? Well, that was before this craziness: in Manalapan, Florida—a small town of just 317 residents—the adjusted median income is a staggering $210,417. No, that’s not the house price—it really is the adjusted median income.

On the other hand, the median home price is crazy high as well, at just under $1 million. But hey, if you’re making this kind of money, you can probably afford a home here, and then some. We trust that you guys know what to do; after all, you’re some of the most educated small town residents in the country.

10. Hill Country Village, TX

Best Small Towns In America

Source: Google Maps

Last but certainly not least is the little city/large town/whatever you want to call it—of Hill Country Village. It lies just outside of San Antonio, and has all of the benefits of being just outside of the bigger city (amenities, jobs, and of course, Six Flags), without all of the hassles (traffic, traffic, and… traffic.)
Also, in general, residents in Hill Country Village are way better paid than folks in San Antonio, with an adjusted median income of $196,250. Of course this does mean that homes are pretty pricey, at a median cost of $666,700, but hey, you get what you pay for. And in Hill Country Village, that’s a lot of house.
It’s Science
We said it once and we’ll say it again—this list: it’s just science. We did the research, we crunched the numbers, and it turns out, these 10 small towns are the best in the nation, in which to live.
And who can argue with that?

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