Rankings

America's Thriving Cities, From Seattle to Boston (photos)

The top 20 urban capitals of American progress.

Mlenny Photography; AWL Images; Corbis; AFP/Getty

Forget Detroit—the economies of America’s cities have improved over the last year. They are still struggling to revive their workforces, and the housing market rebound has been slow, but there are some bright urban spots worth highlighting.

 

To find the country’s top 20 thriving cities, we looked at the 100 largest cities in the U.S. and compared them in categories of population growth (20 percent), employment and earnings (30 percent), market strength (20 percent), infrastructure (15 percent), and intellectual capital (15 percent) and weighted them accordingly. We used data from the U.S. Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Equality of Opportunity Project, Moody’s Credit Services, Zillow, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

David McNew/Getty

1. Irvine, California

 

Population change: 8.50%

Unemployment rate: 4.6%

Population living above poverty line: 88%

Credit rating: n/a

Change in median home price: 15%

Avg. annual patents: 1,038

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 27%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 26

Proehl Studios/Corbis

2. San Jose, California

 

Population change: 3.20%

Unemployment rate: 7.6%

Population living above poverty line: 88%

Credit rating: Aa1, stable outlook

Change in median home price: 27%

Avg. annual patents: 5,687

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 13%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 12

David Sailors

3. Fremont, California

 

Population change: 3.70%

Unemployment rate: 5.3%

Population living above poverty line: 94%

Credit rating: n/a

Change in median home price: 15%

Avg. annual patents: 2,080

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 23%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 17

C Flanigan/Getty

4. Austin, Texas

 

Population change: 6.60%

Unemployment rate: 5.4%

Population living above poverty line: 80%

Credit rating: Aaa

Change in median home price: 12%

Avg. annual patents: 2,698

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 17%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 57

Brian Jannsen/Corbis

5. San Francisco, California

 

Population change: 2.60%

Unemployment rate: 5.7%

Population living above poverty line: 86%

Credit rating: Aa1, stable outlook

Change in median home price: 4%

Avg. annual patents: 2,873

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 20%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 17

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty

6. Seattle, Washington

 

Population change: 4.30%

Unemployment rate: 4.8%

Population living above poverty line: 85%

Credit rating: Aaa, stable outlook

Change in median home price: 8%

Avg. annual patents: 2,322

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 23%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 27

David A. Harvey/Getty

7. Plano, Texas

 

Population change: 4.70%

Unemployment rate: 6.0%

Population living above poverty line: 93%

Credit rating: Aaa

Change in median home price: 12%

Avg. annual patents: 790

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 19%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 57

Justin Sullivan/Getty

8. Gilbert, Arizona

 

Population change: 6.10%

Unemployment rate: 5.7%

Population living above poverty line: 93%

Credit rating: AA (Standard and Poor's)

Change in median home price: 24%

Avg. annual patents: 259

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 11%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 51.1

Getty

9. Orlando, Florida

 

Population change: 4.70%

Unemployment rate: 6.6%

Population living above poverty line: 79%

Credit rating: Aa1, stable outlook

Change in median home price: 74%

Avg. annual patents: 268

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 10%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 67

Donald Miralle/Getty

10. San Diego, California

 

Population change: 2.80%

Unemployment rate: 7.3%

Population living above poverty line: 84%

Credit rating: Aa3, stable outlook

Change in median home price: 16%

Avg. annual patents: 2,679

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 16%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 19

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

11. Washington, D.C.

 

Population change: 5.10%

Unemployment rate: 8.9%

Population living above poverty line: 81%

Credit rating: Aa2

Change in median home price: 14%

Avg. annual patents: 198

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 29%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 27

Jason Reed/REUTERS

12. Chandler, Arizona

  

Population change: 4.00%

Unemployment rate: 6.0%

Population living above poverty line: 90%

Credit rating: Aaa, stable outlook

Change in median home price: 35%

Avg. annual patents: 494

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 15%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 51

Doug Pensinger/Getty

13. Denver, Colorado

  

Population change: 5.70%

Unemployment rate: 7.7%

Population living above poverty line: 82%

Credit rating: Aaa, stable outlook (Denver City & County)

Change in median home price: 15%

Avg. annual patents: 289

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 18%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 42

Henryk Sadura

14. Madison, Wisconsin

  

Population change: 3.00%

Unemployment rate: 5.1%

Population living above poverty line: 81%

Credit rating: Aaa, Stable Outlook

Change in median home price: 6%

Avg. annual patents: 385

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 25%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 9

Matt York/AP

15. Scottsdale, Arizona

  

Population change: 2.80%

Unemployment rate: 6.1%

Population living above poverty line: 91%

Credit rating: Aaa, Stable Outlook

Change in median home price: 13%

Avg. annual patents: 392

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 21%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 51

Jean-Pierre Lescourret/Corbis

16. Boston, Massachusetts

  

Population change: 3.10%

Unemployment rate: 7.8%

Population living above poverty line: 77%

Credit rating: Aaa, stable outlook

Change in median home price: 16%

Avg. annual patents: 562

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 19%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 10

Lindsay Hebberd/Corbis

17. Irving, Texas

 

Population change: 4.20%

Unemployment rate: 6.2%

Population living above poverty line: 85%

Credit rating: Aaa, Negative Outlook

Change in median home price: 25%

Avg. annual patents: 138

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 13%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100):  57

Mlenny Photography

18. Raleigh, North Carolina

 

Population change: 4.80%

Unemployment rate: 6.9%

Population living above poverty line: 83%

Credit rating: Aaa

Change in median home price: 9%

Avg. annual patents: 973

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 16%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 92

Walter Bibikow / AWL Images

19. Minneapolis, Minnesota

  

Population change: 2.70%

Unemployment rate: 5.3%

Population living above poverty line: 76%

Credit rating: Aa1, stable outlook

Change in median home price: 18%

Avg. annual patents: 619

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 17%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): 17

Michael C. Snell/Corbis

20. Lincoln, Nebraska

 

Population change: 2.70%

Unemployment rate: 3.9%

Population living above poverty line: 84%

Credit rating: Aaa, Stable Outlook

Change in median home price: 3%

Avg. annual patents: 79

Adult pop. with advanced degree: 13%

Upward Mobility rank (out of 100): n/a