By Nancy Clanton, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga
Two Georgia cities landed in the top 20 of Money’s 50 best places to live 2020. One of them, in fact, was ranked No. 1.
To create this year’s ranking, Money’s staff looked at cities and towns with at least 25,000 people. They eliminated any places with more than double the national crime risk, a median income level lower than 85% of its state’s median, or with little ethnic diversity.
That left 1,890 locations.
“We then collected nearly 212,000 different data points to help us pick our 50 winners. We considered data about every location’s economy, housing market, cost of living, diversity, public education, health and safety, weather and lifestyle, and amenities, all of which was provided by research partner Witlytic. We put the greatest emphasis on economic factors (such as employment opportunities), housing, cost of living, diversity, and health and safety. Education, weather and lifestyle, and amenities — both for safety and entertainment — also played a role in our calculations,” Money wrote.
You can read the full methodology here or watch this video from Money:
Rankings were derived from 115 types of data in the following categories:
Economy & Income — based on local industry diversity, projected local job growth and historical county job growth, the level of local employment opportunity, local unemployment rate and household debt, among other factors.
Housing Market — based on measures of housing affordability, supply and demand, and housing problems like overcrowding or overspending.
Cost of living — based on tax rates, insurance costs, cost of owning a house, cost of renting, and an index that considers everyday expenses including transportation.
Diversity — based on the racial makeup of a place, the number of income brackets, and the level of integration of both of these factors within a place’s population.
Education — based on local math and reading test scores as well as district-level high school graduation rates.
Health & Safety — based on property and violent crime risk, rate of unnatural deaths (e.g. drug overdose), and physical and mental health factors including life expectancy, access to physical activity, and adults reporting insufficient sleep or mentally unhealthy days.
Health & Safety Amenities — based on the number of hospitals, clinics, mental health providers, primary care providers, fire departments, police departments, and exercise facilities within the place’s boundaries.
Entertainment Amenities — based on the number of facilities designed for entertainment and leisure activity within the place’s boundaries, including bars, restaurants, museums, green spaces, and concert venues.
Weather and Lifestyle — based on weather, convenience (e.g. commute times, walkability, distance to airport), and environmental advantages (e.g. air quality, number of superfunds, access to local parks).
When the results were tallied, Evans took the trophy as the best place to live in America right now.
“A city of 36,000 perched on the Savannah River (which also forms Georgia’s border with South Carolina), Evans has been fast attracting new arrivals with plenty of good-paying jobs in healthcare, administration and the military nearby. But it’s the town’s particularly diverse and welcoming atmosphere amid its traditional suburban Southern charm that persuades so many new families to make it home,” Money wrote.
Why Evans? Money said its main emphasis was on cost of living.
“Of all the U.S. towns and cities we looked at this year, Evans had the lowest cost of living of any place with similarly high income levels. Those generous salaries are due in part to proximity to Augusta — a city locals often refer interchangeably with Evans — which is brimming with good jobs.”
Evans also scored extremely high on Money’s diversity scale, coming in second nationwide — another advantage local residents attribute in part to the strong military presence.
Evans isn’t the only Georgia city on the list. Money ranked Woodstock at No. 17.
“Woodstock became a city in the late 1800s after it was added as a stop on the Marietta and North Georgia Railroad. A push to redevelop the historic downtown in the early 2000s has attracted a new wave of young families,” Money wrote.
While century-old homes can still be found downtown, newcomers have a large selection of newly constructed options. At $268,000, the median home price is about the national norm, but with a 30-minute commute to Atlanta and low unemployment (even now), Woodstock’s median household income is 30% above Georgia’s.