The 30 Best Cities for Starting Over, From Washington, D.C. to Honolulu

Looking for a new beginning for the new year? The Daily Beast finds the 30 best metros for starting over.

Looking for a new beginning for the new year? The Daily Beast crunches the numbers to find the best places in America for reinvigorating your life and career.

With Thanksgiving's gluttony behind us, planning for December's holidays and the year ahead begins. For Americans using the coming new year as motivation to move, we calculated the best metro areas for reinvigorating a career and improving one's quality of life. 

For the second-annual ranking of the best cities in which to start over, The Daily Beast considered six data points, equally weighted, for more than 200 metropolitan areas:

• Small-business friendliness, based on Civic Economics and the American Book Association’s Indie City Index, a study of the vitality of independent retail in U.S. metropolitan areas.

• Ease of finding a job, based on September 2011 unemployment figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

• High income level, based on median income figures for 2011, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, accessed via Fannie Mae.

• Low cost of living, based on the Council for Community and Economic Research's Cost of Living Index for the third quarter of 2011, in which a 100 is the average for all places and each city's index score is a percentage of the average.

• Nonprofit friendliness—nonprofits are a key job source—based on Charity Navigator's ranking of the top 30 cities that are most charity-conscious.

• Student friendly—key for retraining—based on the American Institute for Economic Research's 75 Best Colleges for Students, which ranks small, medium, and large cities, as well as college towns, in terms of academic environment, quality of life, and professional opportunity.

PictureNet / Corbis

#30, Albany, New York

Median income: $77,000

Cost of living score (average=100): 110.9

Student-friendly rank: 14th (among small metros)

Independent business score (average=100): 108.9

Unemployment: 6.8%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Frederick Olson / Flickr

#29, Bridgeport, Connecticut

Median income: $105,300

Cost of living score (average=100): 148.4

Student-friendly rank: 3rd (among small metros)

Independent business score (average=100): 127.5

Unemployment: 7.9%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Pete Zarria / Flickr

#28, Ames, Iowa

Median income: $77,400

Cost of living score (average=100): 96.0

Student-friendly rank: 4th (among college towns)

Independent business score (average=100): 85.5

Unemployment: 4.3%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Elizabeth A. Davis / AP Photo

#27, Knoxville, Tennessee

Median income: $61,300

Cost of living score (average=100): 89.5

Student-friendly rank: N/A

Independent business score (average=100): 105

Unemployment: 7.9%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

#26, Houston, Texas

 Median income: $66,000

Cost of living score (average=100): 89.4

Student-friendly rank: N/A

Independent business score (average=100): 97.9

Unemployment: 8.6%

Charity-conscious rank: 2nd (out of 30)

Michael Mercier / AP Photo

#25, Huntsville, Alabama

Median income: $70,800

Cost of living score (average=100): 95.1

Student-friendly rank: N/A

Independent business score (average=100): 114.7

Unemployment: 8.2%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Joe Sohm / Getty Images

#24, Portland, Maine

Median income: $70,100

Cost of living score (average=100): 112.8

Student-friendly rank: 20th (among small metros)

Independent business score (average=100): 113.1

Unemployment: 5.6%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

#23, Manchester, New Hampshire

Median income: $85,200

Cost of living score (average=100): 120.4

Student-friendly rank: 17th (among small metros)

Independent business score (average=100): 102.4

Unemployment: 5%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

#22, Charlottesville, Virginia

Median income: $76,700

Cost of living score (average=100): 104.4

Student-friendly rank: 6th (among midsize metros)

Independent business score (average=100): 100.3

Unemployment: 5.4%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Kiichiro Satop / AP Photo

#21, Boston, Massachusetts

Median income: $91,600

Cost of living score (average=100): 137.2

Student-friendly rank: 4th (among major metros)

Independent business score (average=100): 105.6

Unemployment: 6.6%

Charity-conscious rank: 12th (out of 30)

Wes Thompson / Corbis

#20, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Median income: $60,600

Cost of living score (average=100): 92.0

Student-friendly rank: 20th (among midsize metros)

Independent business score (average=100): 99.6

Unemployment: 5.5%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

#19, Lexington, Kentucky

Median income: $66,200

Cost of living score (average=100): 91.7

Student -riendly rank: N/A

Independent business score (average=100): 106.1

Unemployment: 8%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

gobucks2 / Flickr

#18, Appleton, Wisconsin

Median income: $72,600

Cost of living score (average=100): 93.4

Student-friendly rank: N/A

Independent business score (average=100): 94.2

Unemployment: 6.3%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

#17, Columbia, Missouri

Median income: $65,100

Cost of living score (average=100): 91.0

Student-friendly rank: 13th (among college towns)

Independent business score (average=100): 88.2

Unemployment: 5.6%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Robyn Beck / Getty Images

#16, Honolulu, Hawaii

Median income: $81,600

Cost of living score (average=100): 167.1

Student-friendly rank: 9th (among small metros)

Independent business score (average=100): 112.5

Unemployment: 5.7%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Getty Images

#15, Fargo, North Dakota

Median income: $69,400

Cost of living score (average=100): 93.9

Student-friendly rank: 20th (among college towns)

Independent business score (average=100): 91.3

Unemployment: 3.3%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo

#14, Washington, DC

Median income: $106,100

Cost of living score (average=100): 147.5

Student-friendly rank: 3rd (among major metros)

Independent business score (average=100): 104.6

Unemployment: 6.1%

Charity-conscious rank: 10th (out of 30)

Ron Reiring / Flickr

#13, Des Moines, Iowa

Median income: $74,500

Cost of living score (average=100): 90.8

Student-friendly rank: N/A

Independent business score (average=100): 81.9

Unemployment: 5.6%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

#12, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Median income: $70,100

Cost of living score (average=100): 93.7

Student-friendly rank: N/A

Independent business score (average=100): 97.2

Unemployment: 5.6%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Mark Karrass / Corbis

#11, Omaha, Nebraska

Median income: $70,600

Cost of living score (average=100): 88.5

Student-friendly rank: N/A

Independent business score (average=100): 72.1

Unemployment: 4.4%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

#10, Fairbanks, Alaska

Median income: $91,700

Cost of living score (average=100): 138.6

Student-friendly rank: N/A

Independent business score (average=100): 120.7

Unemployment: 5.8%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

#9, Wausau, Wisconsin

 

Median income: $68,200

Cost of living score (average=100): 94.8

Student-friendly rank: N/A

Independent business score (average=100): 121.9

Unemployment: 7%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

#8, Provo, Utah

Median income: $66,200

Cost of living score (average=100): 90.2

Student-friendly rank: N/A

Independent business score (average=100): 101.3

Unemployment: 6.6%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Robert Blackie / Flickr

#7, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Median income: $86,300

Cost of living score (average=100): 102.2

Student-friendly rank: 2nd (among college towns)

Independent business score (average=100): 112.8

Unemployment: 6.8%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Jordan Silverman / Getty Images

#6, Burlington, Vermont

Median income: $75,700

Cost of living score (average=100): 122.0

Student-friendly rank: 16th (among college towns)

Independent business score (average=100): 123.6

Unemployment: 4.2%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Nasa Videographer / Flickr

#5, Ogden, Utah

Median income: $70,600

Cost of living score (average=100): 90.5

Student-friendly rank: N/A

Independent business score (average=100): 99.2

Unemployment: 6.9%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Mark Humphrey / AP Photo

#4, Nashville, Tennessee

Median income: $66,200

Cost of living score (average=100): 88.8

Student-friendly rank: 10th (among midsize metros)

Independent business score (average=100): 114.1

Unemployment: 8.5%

Charity-conscious rank: 26th (out of 30)

#3, Iowa City, Iowa

Median income: $75,100

Cost of living score (average=100): 101.7

Student-friendly rank: 3rd (among college towns)

Independent business score (average=100): 109.9

Unemployment: 4.4%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

#2, Idaho Falls, Idaho

Median income: $60,300

Cost of living score (average=100): 88.3

Student-friendly rank: N/A

Independent business score (average=100): 115.7

Unemployment: 6.8%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A

Mira Oberman / Getty Images

#1, Austin, Texas

Median income: $74,900

Cost of living score (average=100): 93.3

Student-friendly rank: 2nd (among midsize metros)

Independent business score (average=100): 134.2

Unemployment: 7.4%

Charity-conscious rank: N/A