Northwest Arkansas is among the top 10 places to live in the country for the eighth year in a row, according to the latest ranking from U.S. News & World Report released today.
The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metropolitan area beat out Madison, Wis., for the No. 10 spot based on a ranking system that accounts for cost of living, access to health care and other measures. Colorado Springs (No. 9), Raleigh and Durham, N.C. (No. 3), Huntsville, Ala. (No. 2) and Green Bay, Wis. (No. 1), were among the metros rounding out the top of the list.
This year’s ranking included several new factors, such as a national survey on where people want to live and the costs of goods and services, not just housing. Those and other real-world changes led to some big shifts in the ranks, sending Dallas and Seattle plummeting from the 30s into the bottom half of the 150-strong list, for example. Northwest Arkansas fell only slightly from No. 7 last year.
“People are considering more than housing when they look at an area’s affordability – they want to know how much goods cost in that area,” said Devon Thorsby, real estate editor at U.S. News. “The ever-present risk for severe weather and a community’s ability to recover – coupled with the area’s opportunities for social activities – are also taken into account when evaluating a best place to live.”
Still, the report’s findings showed this is no time for complacency to remain one of the best places to live and work. Northwest Arkansas fared well on college readiness and its 4.7% unemployment but was dinged by the desirability index, which incorporated a national survey, net migration, weather temperateness and the number of restaurants and similar establishments per capita. While home prices have steadily increased in Northwest Arkansas, the median home price in NWA is still around $301,000, below the national average of $365,000.
The region’s economic performance and quality of life have regularly ranked highly in the U.S. over the past decade, though the rising costs of housing and other concerns have become consistent drags on those numbers.
“For the eighth consecutive year, Northwest Arkansas ranks in the top 10 best places to live in the U.S. due to its fast-growing economy and incredible quality of life,” said Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council. “In order to continue improving the region’s livability, we must pursue collaborative efforts to maintain our strong economic growth, elevate opportunities for the growing workforce and address emergent challenges like housing affordability and access to health care.”
NWA ranked higher than several peers that the Council and its partners use as benchmarks for the area’s development, including Des Moines (No. 19) and Austin (No. 40).