Missouri may be known as “The Show-Me State,” but our mission with this latest in a series of studies by Movoto Real Estate is to show the state—and the rest of the country—which of its cities are the absolute best places to live. It’s something we’ve done for states including New Jersey, North Carolina, and Michigan so far, and now it’s the gateway to the Midwest’s turn.
Known for its waterways, caves, the Ozarks, and the iconic Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri is also where you’ll find the city of Glendale, which, through our research, we’ve determined to be the best place in the state to live. Folks from Missouri tend to be a skeptical bunch—hence the nickname—but we’ve got the data to back up our claim.
Once we ran all the numbers, we came up with a top 10 list of the best places in Missouri, which includes:
There’s a method to how we devise these rankings, and if you keep reading we’ll explain it, as well as go into detail about what makes these places worthy of such high praise.
How We Created This Study
For a state that values the welfare of its people above all else (its motto, Salus populi suprema lex esto, translates from the original Latin to, “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law”), we knew household income would be a good metric. As for other ways to rank the cities, we decided on seven total criteria:
- Cost of living
- Crime rate
- High school diploma attainment
- Median household income
- Median home value
- Median rent price
- Unemployment rate
Using these criteria, we looked at U.S. Census data for 137 places in the state of Missouri with populations above 5,000. Each place was ranked from one to 137 in the individual criteria, with one being the best possible score. These individual rankings were then averaged into an overall Big Deal Score, with the lowest score being the winner.
The top 10 cities stood out from the rest for a variety of reasons, but they all had some things in common: high median income, low crime, great high school diploma rates, low unemployment, and high home values/rent prices, an indicator of desirability.
You can find a ranking of the top 50 cities in Missouri at the end of this post. Here’s what made the top 10 special:
This small city of less than 6,000 residents perfectly embodies Missouri’s motto of placing its residents’ welfare above all else. Glendale managed the best average score out of the 137 cities we surveyed, tying for first place in high school diploma attainment with our No. 3 city and placing first in employment.
Ninety-eight percent of Glendale’s residents have at least a high school diploma, and its unemployment rate is a mere 2.2 percent. Crime in the city is low, with 12 total crimes for every one thousand residents annually. Glendale ranked second for median rent price (higher being better, thus more desirable) at $1,773 per month and came in 11th for home value at $319,300.
Ranking first also comes with a price, however, as Glendale is tied for the sixth highest cost of living in Missouri at 32 points above the national average.
Like Glendale—and all of the cities in our top 10, actually—Town and Country is a suburb of St. Louis. In this case, it’s an affluent one. Home to the Bellerive Country Club, which has hosted both the PGA Tour and US Open, the city has the second-highest median income of any we surveyed at $137,400. Homes there reflect this fact with the median value of $708,900—also second-highest in the state.
Town and Country falls behind Glendale in terms of education, but an impressive 93 percent of its residents still have a diploma (the national average is 59 percent). The crime rate is 14 per 1,000 residents annually. Its rent prices are also lower at $1,042 per month, and its unemployment rate is more than a full point higher at 3.3 percent.
The city’s cost of living is the second-highest in Missouri at 36 points above the U.S. average, but we’re presuming that includes membership to Bellerive?
You might have noticed that when we called Tony and Country affluent, we didn’t say it was the most affluent city in Missouri. No, that title goes to our No. 3 city, Ladue. This city of close to 9,000 placed first in three categories, including income, home value, and rent price, and tied with Glendale for first in high school graduation.
Ladue’s standout trait is clearly its median household income, which is the highest in the state at $157,120. All that money is important when you consider that the median home value is also the highest on our ranking at $773,000. In fact, the overall cost of living in Ladue is the highest as well at 45 points above the national average.
For all its wins, though, Ladue didn’t do as well when it came to crime and unemployment as our top two. In terms of the first criterion, it sees 18 crimes annually for every 1,000 residents; for the second, it has an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, placing it 18th in terms of that criterion.
Six-figure household incomes are also the norm in Wildwood, whose residents we assume must spend a lot of time outdoors given the city’s multiple state parks, reserves, and trails. When they’re not enjoying nature, they’re living it up in the seventh highest valued homes on our ranking at $354,500. Renting there has a median monthly rate of $95.
When it comes to our other criteria, Wildwood’s results were varied. It was third for high school graduation rates at 97 percent, but was then 21st in employment, with an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent. For crime, it was 11th overall at 15 per year per 1,000 people who call Wildwood home.
The largest city to make our top 10 at 47,684 residents as of 2010, Chesterfield is growing at a rapid pace, with new construction (both commercial and residential) booming. Perhaps that will only increase once people hear it’s in our top five?
It got there in part by placing sixth overall in terms of high school graduation (96 percent of its residents have a diploma) and median household income ($97,247 per year). Unemployment was close behind at a low 3.2 percent—maybe some of those still without work should look at a career in construction.
Chesterfield’s cost of living is on the lower end of things for our top 10 at just four points above the national average. Crime in the city occurs at a rate of 16 per 1,000 residents per year.
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6. Creve Coeur
Believed to be named for Creve Coeur Lake to the north, this city, like Wildwood, is known for the large number of parks and recreation options enjoyed by its 17,855 residents. Fortunately, they have the funds to enjoy themselves indoor or out with median household incomes of $94,852, placing the city 10th on our ranking for that criterion.
Homes in Creve Coeur have a median value of $378,200, which makes it fifth in that category. The city only got a higher mark—third place overall—for graduation rate at 97 percent, for which it tied with Wildwood (parks are all they have in common, it seems).
The cost of living in Creve Coeur is 6 percent higher than the U.S. average, while its unemployment rate is 3.9 percent. There are 16 crimes per 1,000 residents each year.
Self-described as “small” and “quaint,” Dardenne Prairie can also be described (by us) as safe. In fact, it’s the safest city in our study, with only eight crimes per 1,000 residents annually.
This safety doesn’t come at the expense of a cost of living bump, as Dardenne Prairie is even with the national average. If you want to live there, you can expect a median home price of $269,900 and median rent of $1,142 per month.
Ninety-five percent of Dardenne Prairie residents have a high school diploma, while the city placed 43rd in terms of employment with a 5.1 percent unemployment rate.
Known for its cultural panache, Clayton (currently celebrating its centennial) is home to—among other things—the St. Louis Art Fair, not to mention numerous galleries. We have to wonder, then, if art theft contributed to it having the second-highest crime rate in our top 10 at 20 per 1,000 residents annually.
Apart from that statistic, the city impressed with the third-highest home value ($607,800) and fourth place finish in terms of employment (its unemployment rate is 2.9 percent). High school diploma attainment tied for sixth at 96 percent, while the gainfully employed among its residents earn a median household income of $87,756 annually. This is important as Clayton’s cost of living is near the highest in our study at 23 points above the national average.
In a first for this top 10, the cost of living in Ballwin is actually below the national average—by five points. That should be worth an extra drink or two at The Wolf, a popular local watering hole. Fortunately, you won’t have to be too worried about being jumped—by a wolf or human—as you leave, since Ballwin ranked fourth for crime at a rate of 12 per 1,000 residents per year.
Households in Ballwin earn a median annual income of $76,589 and homes there have a median price of $233,500, placing the city 17th and 18th overall in those criteria. As for median rent prices, it placed 20th at $908 per month. Ninety-five percent of the city’s residents have a high school diploma, while unemployment there is at 4.8 percent.
It might not have ranked as highly in most respects as Ballwin, but Manchester has it beat in one important area: cost of living. Manchester actually has the lowest on our top 10 at seven points less than the U.S. average. It also has a better graduation rate (96 percent) and unemployment rate (3.1 percent).
Manchester’s median household income and median home price is the lowest on our top 10, at $71,071 and $212,100, respectively. Its crime rate is 20 per 1,000 residents per year and its median rent per month is $871.
You’ll Do Well in Missouri
As you can see, Missouri has plenty of top-tier communities that embody the state’s motto. While St. Louis may have acquired a bit of a bad reputation in recent years for a few reasons, it’s worth repeating that all of these cities are actually suburbs of it. They’re its silver—or in the case of Glendale, platinum—lining, if you will.
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