New Ranking of City Economies Has Red States Dominating the Top 10


All but one of the best-performing cities in the country are in states that voted Republican in 2020, pushing out cities in blue states like California.

San Francisco fell from the top spot to Number 24 and was replaced by Provo, Utah, in The 2021 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index that was released Wednesday.

“A relatively new innovation center with significantly lower costs than Silicon Valley or Silicon Beach, Provo-Orem has attracted tech giants including Qualtrics, Vivint, and SmartCitizen, among others,” Axios reported.

The 2021 version of the index put an emphasis on jobs, wages and high-tech growth and incorporated housing affordability and household broadband access.

The top 10 cities this year are in Utah, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Idaho, Arizona, Tennessee and Alabama.

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Three of the top cities are in Utah: Provo, Ogden and Salt Lake City.

The other top red-state cities are Palm Bay, Florida; Austin, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Huntsville, Alabama.

Phoenix was the only city not in a state that went to former President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, according to Ballotpedia.

“Large cities in the Intermountain West and South are outperforming areas on the coasts, mainly due to their higher levels of short-term job growth and more affordable housing,” Milken told Axios.

Do you live in any of the top 10 cities?

“For instance, Salt Lake City moves up 21 spots to come in at No. 4, and Huntsville, Alabama has one of the largest jumps in the rankings.”

Other metropolitan areas that had big gains, even though they were not in the top 10, include Wichita, Kansas; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Madison, Wisconsin and Lincoln, Nebraska.

Idaho Falls, Idaho, gained six ranks and claimed the title of Best-Performing Small City.

The city “experienced significant short-term job growth” from October 2019 to October 2020, and “performed well on the five-year and one-year job growth indicators,” according to Milken’s report.

The city grew because of high-tech industries like scientific research and development services.

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Salinas, California; Elgin, Illinois; Santa Cruz, California; Lake County, Illinois; Kenosha County, Wisconsin and Des Moines, Iowa, were some of the biggest ranking losers.

Although this shift will allow small cities to grow and prosper, people flocking to high-ranking cities could affect affordability.

“Home prices rose 20 percent in 2020, according to Zillow, and in Boise, ‘Go Back to California’ graffiti has been sprayed along the highways,” Conor Dougherty reported in The New York Times.

Out-of-town home buyers have a budget 50 percent higher than locals in Boise, Idaho, and Nashville, Tennessee; 32 percent higher in Austin, Texas; 26 percent higher in Denver and 23 percent higher in Phoenix.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith