We teamed up with Nextdoor.com, a San Francisco, Calif.-based social network for neighborhoods, to assess 500 small metro areas with populations between 5,500 and 150,000. Using data from the U.S. Census, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and City-Data.com, we ranked the towns based on four data points: percentage of owner-occupied homes (studies have shown a direct correlation between homeownership and neighborhood stability); the crime rate; charitable giving; and the percentage of college graduates (research has found that college-educated folks typically display more civic engagement, with higher rates of voting and volunteering). Nextdoor then conducted qualitative surveys among its membership in the towns that rated the highest to help finalize the ranking of the top 15.
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