These Are The 10 Most Successful Cities In America

By Chris Kolmar
Aug. 13, 2016

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What is success? Is it the amount of money you have in your bank account, at any given point? Is it that feeling you get after delivering a killer presentation, or even a pretty decent bar joke? Or is it something bigger—something wholly unnamable, undefinable, immeasurable, and totally subjective?

Probably so. But here at Zippia, we like things that we can neatly measure and then expound upon. So yes, with the Power of Math, we have determined the unarguable, totally objective 10 most successful cities in America. And here they are:

  1. Frisco, Texas
  2. Cary, North Carolina
  3. Naperville, Illinois
  4. Centennial, Colorado
  5. McKinney, Texas
  6. Alexandria, Virginia
  7. Overland Park, Kansas
  8. Plano, Texas
  9. Gilbert, Arizona
  10. Olathe, Kansas

If you are trying to argue already with our unarguable list, keep reading. There’s a method to this madness.

How We Determined the Most Successful Cities in America

The first thing that comes to most capitalist minds in terms of success is—money. After all, rich people must be successful, right?

Meh. Maybe. But we think there’s a bit more that goes into it than that. So we looked at this set of criteria from the 2010-2014 American Community Survey:

  • Poverty Level
  • Median Household Income
  • Unemployment Rate

Median household income is the most digestible way to understand how wealthy a place really is. The unemployment rate tries to capture the prospects for more people to become rich. And finally, if more people are employed, the brighter (and more successful) that place’s future looks.

After we collected the data for all 289 places with more than 100,000 people in the USA (that aren’t CDPs), we ranked each place from 1 to 289 for each of the criteria, with 1 being the most successful.

We then averaged all the rankings for a place into a “Success Score” with the place having the lowest overall Success Score crowned the “Most Successful City in America.”

So without further ado, let’s get into just what made each of our top 10 cities so successful, starting with our winner, Frisco, Texas.

1.Frisco, Texas

If you’re thinking that Frisco is just another suburb of Dallas, well, you’d stand corrected, good sir. Because Frisco is anything but some run of the mill suburb. This city in its own right (of over 130,000 residents) has both the lowest poverty rate and the highest median income in the country. That’s a $112,155 median income, in case you’re being nosy. It also has an unemployment rate of just 4.9 percent!

2.Cary, North Carolina

There’s a reason Cary is one of the fastest growing communities in the country. It’s safe, it’s beautiful, the people are friendly… Okay, there are a lot of reasons. But more than anything, this place is SUCCESSFUL. And by that, we mean, these guys are makin’ money.

$91,481 per year, to be precise (median income). Other than that, though, Cary also has the ninth lowest poverty rank and the 10th lowest unemployment rank. Ku-dos.

3.Naperville, Illinois

If you measure success by awards and accolades, Naperville might just be No. 1 in that contest. It’s been voted one of the best places to live in the country, it has been named a best city to retire, and is hands down one of the safest cities in the country, according to USA Today.

But it’s also successful in our books, mostly because of its incredibly high median income (over $109K) and equally impressive low poverty rank (the second lowest in the country.)

4.Centennial, Colorado

This city of just over 100,000 residents is… awesome. It is safe, it is successful, it’s just a hop and a skip away from Denver, and, did we mention it is successful?

Here’s why: Centennial has the third lowest poverty rank of all the nearly 300 places we checked out. It also has the 10th highest median income ($90,090) and an unemployment rate of just 5.3 percent.

5.McKinney, Texas

The second of our three Texas success stories is McKinney. Just like our winner, Frisco, McKinney is one of Dallas’s neighbors. But unlike Dallas (which ranked No. 182 in our analysis), McKinney is… well, actually successful.

Sure, there are folks in Dallas who are doing really, really well—but McKinney overall has it beat—especially when it comes to its low unemployment rate. (The lowest in the country!)

6.Alexandria, Virginia

Largely populated with Political Big Shots (or rather, people involved in politics) who commute from D.C. to Alexandria, this Virginia city has a lot going on for it. First of all, it has the sixth lowest unemployment rate in the country.

Which probably has a little something to do with how expensive it is—believe us, if you’re living in Alexandria, you need a job. But the good news is, the jobs here pay prettttyyyy well, with a median income of $87,319. So go to Alexandria, get a good job, make money, be successful. Easy. Peasy.

7.Overland Park, Kansas

Overland Park is easily the most successful city in the country, let alone in Kansas. It has the fourth lowest poverty rank in the country, and the 11th lowest unemployment rank! Plus, residents here enjoy a median income of $72,000, which is great anywhere in the country, but especially in Kansas. Not too shabby, Overland Park!

8.Plano, Texas

The third and final Texas Star on our list today is Plano. You’ve probably guessed it by now, but yes, Plano is also a neighbor of Dallas, but it’s also a successful city in its own right, with a population of nearly 270,000.

It’s headquarters to tons of corporations—Alliance Data, Dell Services, HP Enterprise Services, Pizza Hut, and Cinemark Theatres, just to name a handful—which is probably why the unemployment rate is so low here. Plus, the median income is nearly $83,000. So that’s cool.

9.Gilbert, Arizona

With the eighth lowest poverty rank and the 20th highest median household income ($81,485), Gilbert comes in at No. 9 on our list.

Plus, the unemployment rate is super low. It’s no wonder Gilbert is growing so fast!

10.Olathe, Kansas

Source: Flickr

Last but certainly not least is another city in Kansas, Olathe. With over 125,000 residents, Olathe is not only one of the most successful cities in the state, but it’s also one of the most populous. But numbers aren’t what make a place successful or not—unless we’re talkin’ money.

In this case, that’s precisely why Olathe ranked among our top 10. Residents make upward of $76,000 per year (and downward, as this is the median… but still, pretty impressive); and have both the 13th lowest poverty and unemployment ranks in the country. Hats off, guys. You win.

Measuring Success

If you’re still looking at this post thinking, “Surely, such superficial methods can’t possibly measure a city, or rather, the individuals that make up that city’s success!” well, you’re probably right.

But we like to measure things, and when it comes to success, we feel pretty successful in our approach. Congrats to Frisco and our winners. And for those who didn’t make the cut, well, better luck next year.

Detailed List Of The Most Successful Cities In America

City rank Unemployment Rate Poverty Rate Median Income
Frisco city, Texas 1 4.9% 3.9% $112,155
Cary town, North Carolina 2 5.1% 6.4% $91,481
Naperville city, Illinois 4 6.6% 4.1% $109,512
Centennial city, Colorado 3 6.0% 5.3% $90,090
McKinney city, Texas 5 4.0% 7.5% $82,988
Alexandria city, Virginia 6 4.7% 7.7% $87,319
Overland Park city, Kansas 8 5.1% 5.7% $72,231
Plano city, Texas 7 5.9% 6.7% $82,944
Gilbert town, Arizona 9 6.3% 6.4% $81,485
Olathe city, Kansas 10 5.3% 7.0% $76,519
Fremont city, California 11 7.6% 6.0% $103,591
Carrollton city, Texas 12 5.6% 7.2% $69,282
San Mateo city, California 14 7.4% 7.3% $90,087
Bellevue city, Washington 13 7.1% 8.1% $92,524
Broken Arrow city, Oklahoma 15 5.9% 6.0% $66,250
Anchorage municipality, Alaska 15 6.9% 7.3% $78,121
Midland city, Texas 17 4.3% 8.8% $67,144
Virginia Beach city, Virginia 18 6.2% 7.2% $67,001
Simi Valley city, California 19 8.2% 6.0% $89,595
Sunnyvale city, California 20 7.8% 8.1% $103,257
Scottsdale city, Arizona 21 6.3% 8.8% $72,455
Chandler city, Arizona 23 6.7% 8.5% $72,072
Santa Clara city, California 22 7.6% 9.1% $93,840
Torrance city, California 24 8.1% 6.5% $78,286
West Jordan city, Utah 26 6.8% 8.0% $69,404
Arvada city, Colorado 25 7.1% 7.8% $69,550
Round Rock city, Texas 27 7.1% 8.5% $70,952
Rochester city, Minnesota 28 4.8% 10.1% $63,472
Chesapeake city, Virginia 29 7.6% 8.0% $70,176
Thornton city, Colorado 30 7.5% 7.9% $66,160
Roseville city, California 32 8.3% 8.3% $76,712
Huntington Beach city, California 32 8.4% 9.0% $82,554
Irvine city, California 31 7.1% 14.0% $91,999
Richardson city, Texas 34 7.5% 11.3% $70,959
Thousand Oaks city, California 37 9.7% 7.3% $99,115
Cambridge city, Massachusetts 36 5.8% 15.1% $75,909
San Francisco city, California 35 7.6% 13.1% $78,378
Odessa city, Texas 39 5.0% 11.9% $56,119
Seattle city, Washington 38 6.5% 14.0% $67,365
Daly City city, California 40 8.7% 9.1% $74,489
Carlsbad city, California 40 8.8% 11.0% $87,416
Peoria city, Arizona 42 7.6% 9.5% $63,025
Sioux Falls city, South Dakota 43 4.6% 10.9% $52,607
Westminster city, Colorado 44 8.5% 9.6% $66,300
Cedar Rapids city, Iowa 45 5.7% 12.5% $54,465
Santa Clarita city, California 46 10.0% 8.6% $83,178
Orange city, California 46 9.0% 11.6% $77,086
San Jose city, California 48 9.8% 11.1% $83,787
Temecula city, California 50 10.6% 8.0% $78,535
Burbank city, California 49 8.9% 10.2% $66,111

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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Topics: Rankings