The lighter side of real estate

These Are The 10 Most Caring Small Cities In America

Searching for your very own Pleasantville? We can’t guarantee bell skirts and bow ties, but these 10 small cities will certainly welcome you with open arms.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

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Everybody knows that tiny towns are filled with some of the friendliest, most welcoming, and all around caring people in the whole entire world—most of whom wear bow ties, crisp suits, or long bell-shaped skirts, and hand out cookies to children in between their charity work and cancer research. C’mon, we’ve seen the movies.

But what about those places that’re slightly larger? Are they just as caring, you ask? At the Movoto Real Estate Blog, the same questioning has been plaguing us, so we decided to put an end to our sleepless nights (and yours too), and create a list of the 10 most caring small cities in the U.S.

Here they are, starting with our winner and all around most caring place, Petaluma, CA:

1. City of Petaluma, CA
2. City of Marietta, GA
3. Town of Chapel Hill, NC
4. City of Georgetown, TX
5. City of Charleston, WV
6. Village of Hempstead, NY
7. City of Harrisonburg, VA
8. City of Bradenton, FL
9. City of Oak Park, IL
10. City of San Rafael, CA

Interestingly, when we checked out the most caring bigger cities in the U.S., nearly all of them could be found in the South. Now don’t freak out, but if you haven’t noticed already this list of smaller cities includes not just California (twice), but Florida, Illinois, and even New York.

To find out just how we came up with this list, keep reading. Then we’ll go over what makes the people in each of these places so caring. Yes, Georgia, even the Yankees.

Our Methodology

Just like our other Big Deal Lists, we wanted to rely on facts and figures rather than our own, perhaps slightly biased opinions (this author is from the South, y’all). So we started by making a list of all the small cities in the U.S. with populations between 50,000 and 60,000, which gave us 140 places total.

We then used sources like the 2010 U.S. Census, the 2012 FBI Uniform Crime Report, and business listings to look at each place in terms of the following criteria:

  • Student-counselor ratio
  • Crimes per 100,000 people (the lower the better)
  • Pet shelters and rescue per capita
  • Community services per capita
  • Mental health counselors and therapists per capita
  • Percent of workers who carpool (caring for the environment)

From there, we ranked each place with scores from one to 140, where the lowest scores were the most caring places. We then averaged each city’s rankings into one overall Big Deal Score, where again, the lowest score went to our most caring place.

If you want to see where your small city might have ranked, feel free to hop down to the bottom of this post to see the top 50 most caring small cities. If you don’t see yours there, it may be that it doesn’t fall into the size requirements. Or maybe you’re just jerks, who knows?

To hear more about the non-jerkiest small cities (it’s a word…now), keep on reading. We’ll take a closer look at our top 10, starting with our most caring city, Petaluma.

1. Petaluma, CA

Most Caring Small Cities In America

Source: Flickr user Jennifer Longaway

We’re not making this up: many scenes from the movie “Pleasantville” were actually filmed in Petaluma, specifically at the intersection of Petaluma Blvd. and Western Avenue.

It doesn’t just look like a city so caring that it must be fictional either, it actually is. It’s almost too good to be true. Just think about this: out of 140 cities in the U.S., Petaluma had the 12th lowest number of crimes. It also had the sixth highest number of counselors and mental health professionals per capita, and was among the top 30 for its percentage of residents who carpool.

It’s really no wonder this Sonoma-Marin Fair-hosting, Butter and Egg Days Parade-celebrating, Little League World Series-playing small city made the top of our list.

2. Marietta, GA

Most Caring Small Cities In America

Source: Flickr user Public Information Office

There must be something in the water in this part of the country, because not only did Atlanta come in as our most caring larger city in the U.S., but now one of its suburbs comes in as the second most caring small city. What is it, Georgia? Sweet tea?

Despite the fact that Marietta didn’t exactly have the best track record in crime (it ranked 126th here), it more than made up for this by scoring well in all of our other categories. With places like Good Mews Animal Foundation and Our Pal’s Place, just to name a couple, Marietta had the fourth most animal shelters per capita.

It wasn’t just about Fido here. Residents care for one another, with the fifth most counselors and mental health professionals per capita, and they even cared for the environment—15.24 percent of them carpooled regularly.

3. Chapel Hill, NC

Most Caring Small Cities In America

Source: Flickr user US Army John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School’s Photostream

It seems fitting that Chapel Hill’s motto is “The Southern Part of Heaven.” After all, heaven’s got to be filled with some pretty caring people, don’t you think?

The residents in Chapel Hill are no different—with the 11th most community services per capita, they clearly value volunteering.  With the 15th lowest student-counselor ratio in schools, they clearly value their kids (the ratio was only 13 to one), and best of all, with the most counselors and mental health professionals per capita, they clearly value their adults as well.

Plus, this place has Rise Biscuits & Donuts. It really is heaven.

4. Georgetown, TX

Most Caring Small Cities In America

Source: Flickr user Anne Worner

Now this author may be a little biased and all, coming from Austin, but Georgetown is awesome and is filled with absolute saints. All of them. Okay, yeah, a little biased.

But the numbers don’t lie: Georgetown cares about its human residents, with some of the most community services per capita and the 13th lowest student to counselor ratio in the nation. It also cared for its four-legged people, considering it had the 10th most animal shelters per capita.

Plus it’s where that John Travolta movie “Michael” was filmed, and if we trust all things that movies say (which, of course we do), angels must live there.

5. Charleston, WV

Most Caring Small Cities In America

Source: Flickr user US Department of Education’s photostream

Fun fact: Booker T. Washington, celebrated writer, educator, civil rights leader, and all around caring dude, once lived in Charleston. Now, this doesn’t have anything to do with our analysis, but it’s just a taste of the type of kind-hearted folks you’ll find here.

These days, said kind-hearted folks seem to spend a lot of their time serving the community, as this city had the eighth most community services per capita. And it seems to be paying off—it also had the eighth fewest crimes per 100,000 people.

6. Hempstead, NY

Most Caring Small Cities In America

Source: Flickr user Adam Fagen

Ah, Hempstead: The previous residence of such great men as Walt Whitman, Christopher Morley, and, of course, Method Man. Not saying these guys were necessarily philanthropists or anything; it’s just a cool fact.

These days, though, Hempstead does seem to be populated with some very caring people. Out of the 140 places we looked at, it had the 20th lowest student-counselor ratio in schools (a good thing, too, because it’s something of a college town), and it had the 31st most community services (things like homeless shelters, soup kitchens, etc.) per capita.

As far as the environment goes, it doesn’t get much friendlier than this: 14.05 percent of residents carpooled on the regular.

7. Harrisonburg, VA

Most Caring Small Cities In America

Source: Flickr user Chesapeakeclimate

This city, appropriately nicknamed “The Friendly City,” came in toward the top of our list for a number of reasons.

First of all, with a student-counselor ratio of just 12 to one, it had one of the lowest in the country. To put that into perspective, most places hover around 20 to 1, and many (especially in California) have even more.

Harrisonburg residents also seem to really love their pets, seeing as though this city is home to some of the most animal shelters per capita.

8. Bradenton, FL

Most Caring Small Cities In America

Source: Flickr user Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida’s photostream

Bradenton may not exactly have the lowest crime rate (it ranked 120th here), but that certainly doesn’t mean residents don’t care about one another—or their pets for that matter. This city had the sixth most animal shelters per capita—places like Honor Animal Rescue and the Bishop Animal Shelter SPCA.

This city also had the sixth most community services per capita, including homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and services for those in need. And speaking of services for those in need, Bradenton just keeps ‘em coming: it had the 17th most counselors and mental health professionals per capita.

9. Oak Park, IL

Most Caring Small Cities In America

Source: Flickr user Joshua/Yoon Hernandez

Oak Park, Illinois may be just a quick ride away from Chicago, but as far as things like safety, community services, and general human decency go, they are worlds apart.

Out of all of the places we looked at, Oak Park had the lowest number of crimes per 100,000 residents: just 1,084. To put that into perspective, its larger neighbor, Chicago, had 5,175.

In addition to not mugging, murdering, or otherwise messing with each other, residents in Oak Park show they care by way of community services and providing counseling when its needed. It ranked ninth and 10th in these categories, respectively.

10. San Rafael, CA

Most Caring Small Cities In America

Source: City of San Rafael

If you’ve ever been to San Rafael or Marin County in general, just a walk around the block—any block really—and you’ll get the feeling that these people really care about each other. And their dogs, too, of course.

Out of all the places we looked at, San Rafael had the most community services per capita—things like homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and other help for those in need. It also had the second most counselors and mental health professionals per capita.

They also cared for their four-legged friends who need a home—San Rafael had the 14th most animal shelters per capita.

Your Very Own Pleasantville

As anyone who has ever seen an episode of “Leave it to Beaver” or a movie taking place in the ’50s knows, itty bitty towns in America are pretty much the equivalent to real life Pleasantvilles, just lacking the unicorns and free candy (okay, I haven’t seen the movie).

Clearly, though, these tiny cities aren’t the only places filled with caring folks—these 10 places prove that.

If you’re looking to move to your very own Pleasantville, get in touch. Aside from creating lists like these, we sell houses. And we care.

Most Caring Small Cities In America

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posted on: October 28, 2014
61,041 views, 1 comment

One Comment

  1. Lisette

    I grew up in Marin and would say what makes them happy is abundance of outdoor activities- but you theories on what makes a ace caring seems way off- just because they have a lot of mental health and counsellors doesn’t make it caring- it means business is BOOMING- which would imply a LOTbof people are depressed, anxious, etc.. meaning in their everyday life the “caring” people around them aren’t making them very happy or contributing to their happiness- if you are truly surrounded by a caring enviornment you don’t need so many therapists-

    Those community services exist due to large amounts of need- in a relatively small area- full of very wealthy people who don’t want their town to turn to shit. While I do know genuinely caring people’s names the area, in general most are quite rude, keep up with the jones and extremely judgemental if you are a little different.


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