Northern Kentucky Tribune Staff Report
A study by SmartAsset has uncovered the best suburbs to live in near a large city — and in the Midwest, Hebron earned second place in the Cincinnati area.
Among the top ten suburbs overall, Erlanger placed #5 and Fort Wright placed #6, giving Northern Kentucky three of the top 10 “best suburbs” in the whole country. The data were based on jobs, affordability, and livability.
In fact, Indianapolis, Cincinnati (Northern Kentucky) and Columbus suburbs dominated the entire top 10 in the whole study. The top suburbs were Brownsburg outside Indianapolis, Hebron near Cincinnati, and Delaware close to Columbus.
Large cities can be a great option of anyone looking for a walkable, fast-paced environment with easy access to shops and restaurants. But the hustle and bustle of a large city isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition for everyone.
Large cities are often expensive (average home values exceed $1 million in a handful of places) and may have higher crime rates than their surrounding areas.
Suburbs, in turn, can offer more affordable housing, lower crime rates, and a variety of entertainment options.
The Midwest came out way ahead of the other three major regions (South, Northeast, West) in the U.S. It is the home to some of the highest-ranking suburbs in the SmartAsset study. Specifically SmartAsset analyzed dats for 146 Midwest suburbs and 31 of them rank in the top 50 across all regions.
The top-ranking suburb in the Midwest, and our study overall, is Brownsburg, Indiana. Located roughly 17 miles northwest from Indianapolis, this town is home to almost 26,600 people and scored highest in our jobs and livability categories. Specifically, Brownsburg ranks in the top 100 suburbs across all regions for its five-year income growth (nearly 36%) and 10-year job growth (nearly 29%). It’s worth noting that Brownsburg also offers affordable housing options. We found that median annual housing costs make up just 16.24% of the suburb’s median household income ($89,089).
Brownsburg is not the only suburb outside of Indianapolis that ranks well. In fact, three other suburbs that rank in the top 10 are located nearest to The Railroad City (Noblesville, Fishers and Greenwood). All four suburbs score highest in our jobs category. Specifically, they have unemployment rates of 2.5% or less and 10-year employment growth rates exceeding 25%.
Ohio is home to many livable suburbs as well. Four Columbus-area suburbs ranked in the overall top 20 of our study. They include Delaware, Johnstown, Canal Winchester and Bellefontaine. These four Ohio suburbs performed especially well in our livability category, each ranking among the top 25 for the category. Expect lower violent and property crime rates in these suburbs (under 140 violent crimes and 1,400 property crimes, per 100,000).
For those looking to reside near the largest Midwestern city (Chicago, Illinois), Elmhurst, Illinois may be a good option. This suburb ranks as the 36th-best overall for its high median household income ($123,869) across all regions and places in the top 75 for its low violent and property crime rates (83 and 850 per 100,000 residents, respectively).
Methodology and Data-gathering
To find the best suburbs to live within an hour of a large city, SmartAsset compared data for places located within 15 minutes to an hour by car to 87 large cities (those with a population of 250,000 or more).
Definitions of suburbs according to population constraints vary, but for the purposes of our study, we considered neighboring suburbs with a population between 5,000 and 100,000.
This left us with 494 suburbs, which we compared across three categories and a total of 13 metrics:
• Jobs. For our jobs score, we considered five metrics: median household income, five-year income growth, 10-year employment growth, job diversity and unemployment rate. Job diversity measures the variety of industries available in a place using the Shannon index. Data for all metrics comes from the Census Bureau’s 2020 5-year American Community Survey.
• Affordability. For this score, we looked at housing costs relative to income, home value-to-income ratio, average effective property tax rate and estimated annual cost of living for an individual. Data for the first three metrics comes from the Census Bureau’s 2020 5-year American Community Survey. Cost of living figures come from the MIT Living Wage Calculator.
• Livability. This includes the high school graduation rate, dining and entertainment establishments as a percentage of all establishments and violent and property crimes per 100,000 people. Data comes from the 2022 County Health Rankings and the Census Bureau’s 2020 5-year American Community Survey. Crime data comes from the FBI and is for 2020; missing crime data was supplemented by NeighborhoodScout.com.
SmartAsset ranked each suburb in every metric and found an average ranking and score for each category, then found a final score, averaging the three category scores. The suburb with the highest cumulative score ranked at the top of our list.
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