The Top 10 Best Places to Live in North America

A MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader survey reveals the top 10 best places to live in North America, including maps for solar power potential and tornado, earthquake and hurricane danger.

| August/September 1996


The Onken family barn in Bluegrass, Iowa, built in 1870.


This MOTHER EARTH NEW reader survey shows the top 10 best places to homestead in North America. (See the North America homesteading maps in the image gallery.)

The Top 10 Best Places to Live in North America

"Go West (or Midwest), folks" pretty well sums up the findings of MOTHER'S first-ever Community Survey — with apologies to 19th c. newspaper editor Horace Greeley and his admonition to adventurous and ambitious youth of his day. We stopped counting the responses just before press time, and, as always occurs when we ask you for your opinion, got significantly more than we asked for. Hundreds of you not only commented upon your individual communities, but also upon the state of the nation, the quality of our air, water and soil, and the content of our character. But first things first.  

The greatest percentage of respondents who are big fans of their communities are centered in:

1. Wisconsin, Oregon, or Washington State, or ... 2. In select communities or areas in a broad band running up the middle of the continent from Oklahoma through Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota and into the eastern prairie provinces, and/or ... 3. In settlements of like-minded souls far from good-job markets, and where public services (schools, police) are few or less-than-adequate by city standards, or ... 4. Outside a small city or on the fringes of a country town.

Best of the Best Places to Live in North America 

Nearly all of the top-rated areas are quiet enclaves where geographic and social amenities have naturally attracted a gathering of people for whom sharing seems more important than conspicuous consumption ... often in locations where life can be a struggle with nature. None are places you'll find in conventional magazine or TV lists of "The Best Places to Live."

11/19/2014 7:19:04 PM

Does anyone know of a survey of this kind done more recently?

k.c. compton
9/17/2014 3:33:38 PM

When this article was written in 1996, drought wasn't such a huge factor in considering the best places to be. Now, unfortunately, climate is increasingly making some of these decisions for us, whether we like it or not.

9/16/2014 8:25:23 PM

Very interesting article, but I'm very disappointed that the major and accelerating impacts of climate chaos were not mentioned. As much as I love the southwest, I would never seriously consider moving there because water is already a very serious issue and will only get worse. We've been planning a move to CA - until watching the megadrought unfold. We feel very lucky we didn't buy any property there last year. I've lived in WI all my life but the horrendous politicians in power are taking the state backwards at a frightening rate. Hopefully the citizens of WI will change that this November or my family will be leaving!!! Anyone considering a major move MUST research projected climate change impacts for the region. Things are growing worse at such a rapid rate it's an extremely difficult decision.

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