The way WalletHub sees it, the best small city for living in Arizona is Oro Valley.
And Sun City and Yuma? Not so much.
That’s all based on a matrix of factors the online financial advice site used to compare more than 1,200 communities across the country with populations between 25,000 and 100,000. The 33 “indicators of livability” WalletHub uses range from housing costs and restaurants per capita to crime rates and even the percentage of the population that is obese.
A few things make Oro Valley tops in Arizona and No. 217 nationally:
- There’s a relatively low rate of violent crime.
- Only 5.6 percent of residents live below the poverty level.
- More than 95 percent of the population is insured.
- And more than 97 percent have at least a high school diploma.
Coming in at No. 2 in the state is Florence.
Only about three out of every four residents in Florence have graduated from high school. And its median household income is just $47,891 compared with the $77,770 figure for Oro Valley .
But that is more than offset by other factors that WalletHub considers important, including the 10th fastest population growth among cities of its size nationwide in the past five years and among the lowest cost of living of any Arizona community studied.
And its rate of property crime is the sixth-lowest in the country.
No. 3 Marana got a boost from its relatively low poverty rate and relatively high rate of home ownership.
Other communities had their own things that stood out, good or bad.
Flagstaff, for example, had the lowest percentage of physically inactive adults. And it also picked up points both for having a high rate of coffee shops on a per capita basis as well as the fact that one out of every nine residents walks to work, one of the best rates in the country.
Prescott gained points for having among the lowest debt rates when compared to median income, with Queen Creek at the high end. And WalletHub also credited Prescott for a relatively high number of bars when the size of the community is considered.
Lake Havasu was near the top of the list in the percentage of adults who are not physically active. But, like Prescott, it got points for the number of bars.
Where Sun City shines, the study says, is the nearly 80.1 percent home-ownership rate. But it’s hard to find a bar in the unincorporated community.
And only San Luis and Bullhead City rank lower in median household income, at least as far as Arizona communities are concerned.
Mohave County communities lost points in the rankings because of lackluster growth rates.
Kingman’s population grew by just 1.7 percent in the past five years. That outpaced Lake Havasu City with a 0.6 percent growth rate and Bullhead City, where the population actually declined by 1.2 percent.
So where are the best small cities nationwide?
WalletHub ranks Princeton, N.J., at the top, driven by the community’s economic health. Other top-tier communities include Lexington and Milton, Mass.; Leakwood, Kan.; Brentwood, Tenn.; and Los Altos, Calif.