Various cities are better suitable to midcareer workers than to retirees, and some petition to new grads more than to families. That's why we chosen five great cities for each of five diverse age groups -- young adults, mid-career professional, families, second acts and retirees.
Best city for young adults: Madison, Wisconsin
- Population (metro area): 568,593
- Unemployment rate: 4.9%
- Cost-of-living index: 108.2
- Median household income: $58,775
- Average rent (one-bedroom apartment): $849
Let's skip the Cheesehead and cowpie references. Madison is an knowledgeable, tech-savvy city, filled with current grads that have sufficient energy to start on a dozen start-ups and still have time to check out that brewpub down the block.
Best city for midcareer professionals: Washington, D.C.
- Population (metro area): 5,582,170
- Unemployment rate: 5.3%
- Cost-of-living index: 136.3
- Median household income: $84,424
- Income growth (2006-11): 15.8%
The nation's capital boasts variety from job sectors to arts and civilization which means it's easy to find your niche. Don't peg better Washington as just a government hub; D.C.'s major growth area is specialized services, such as consult companies and protection contractors. Biotech rules in the Maryland outer edge and in the area stretch from Baltimore to the District, cyber-security jobs are growing.
Best city for families: Des Moines, Iowa
- Population (metro area): 569,633
- Unemployment rate: 5.0%
- Cost-of-living index: 91.3
- Median household income: $57,185
- Student-teacher ratio: 14.5
A low being without a job rate, high-paying financial-services jobs and below-average housing costs allow Des Moines populace to enjoy a normal of living that's the jealousy of their friends in larger cities. Families can with no trouble find a four-bedroom home with a sensitively involved garage in the $200,000 range.
Best city for second acts: Portland, Maine
- Population (metro area): 514,098
- Unemployment rate: 6.4%
- Cost-of-living index: 113.1
- Median household income: $54,431
- Restaurants per 100,000 people: 263
Portland's lively arts scene, highly skilled labor force and imaginative cuisine, along with a low crime rate and high-quality checkup amenities, are drawing professionals who are making their home base here and telecommuting or soaring to their jobs.
Best city for retirees: New Orleans, Louisiana
- Population (metro area): 1,167,764
- Unemployment rate: 7.2%
- Cost-of-living index: 95.7
- Median household income: $47,188
- Doctors per 100,000 people: 136
Seven years after the fiend gale and levee breaches, N'awlins has bounced back. The rebounding populace has helped spawn a building boom of just now construct and refurbished homes, as well as new communications.