San Diego

San Diego NOT One of The 100 Best Places to Live? Here's Why This Ranking Says So

U.S. News & World Report analyzed 150 of the most populated metro areas in the country to determine the best places to live

San Diego skyline from the San Diego Bay bay with mountains in the background.
David Toussaint/Getty Images

America's Finest City may not actually be so spectacular after all -- at least according to an annual report of the best cities to live in the U.S., which placed San Diego pretty close to the bottom this year.

U.S. News & World Report analyzed 150 of the most populated metro areas in the country to determine the best places to live and retire. San Diego ranked 105th and 138th respectively, below cities like Reno, Nevada; Boise, Idaho; and Jacksonville, Florida.

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So why did San Diego rank so low?

The rankings were based on public data and user opinions in 5 categories on a weighted scale: the quality of life (32.5%), the value (25%), the job market (20%), how desirable it is (17.5%) and migration (5%).

San Diego didn't score particularly well in any category.

Even though U.S. News contributor Darcie Brown described San Diego positively for its weather, beaches, outdoor activities, fine dining and entertainment, desirability and quality of life scores remained moderate with rankings with a 7.6 and 7.2 respectively.

The quality of life index is also the most comprehensive, considering crime rates, healthcare access, education, well-being, air quality and commute time in its assessment.

Not surprisingly, however, housing costs were keeping us low on the list. San Diego had close to the lowest score in the value category, which compares housing costs to median household income to give San Diego a score of 3.3. The national average for housing in 2021 was $365,616, while San Diego's average was 889,225 (which we, of course, know will be much higher for 2022).

"Living in San Diego is not particularly affordable," Brown wrote. "San Diegans are willing to pay these elevated prices, though, often referring to the cost-of-living differences as the "sunshine tax," or the price of enjoying a year-round temperate climate."

The job market category, which assessed the unemployment rate and average salary to create a ranking, landed San Diego a score of 6.2, which isn't too far below the city ranked #1 best place to live -- Huntsville, Alabama -- with a score of 7.2.

San Diego also ranked pretty low in net migration, with a score of 4.6, but that only accounted for 5% of the total score.

Huntsville, Alabama, earned top honors, thanks mostly to high rankings on the value and job market indices.

The top 10 cities ranked on the list were:

  1. Huntsville, Alabama
  2. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  3. Green Bay, Wisconsin
  4. Boulder, Colorado
  5. San Jose, California
  6. Raleigh & Durham, North Carolina
  7. Fayetteville, Arkansas
  8. Portland, Maine
  9. Sarasota, Florida
  10. San Francisco, California

If it's any consolation, though, San Diego, ranked third when only compared to other metro areas in California, behind San Jose and San Francisco.

U.S. News says the data used in their rankings come from sources like the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Labor and their internal resources. That data is then categorized into five indexes that are then weighted based on a survey of Americans that asked what they value when choosing a place to live. Learn more about the methodology here.

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