FAYETTEVILLE -- The Northwest Arkansas metro area fell three spots in the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking of best places to live in the United States, coming in at No. 10.
"For the eighth consecutive year, Northwest Arkansas ranks in the top 10 best places to live in the U.S. due to its fast-growing economy and incredible quality of life," said Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council. The council is a group of area business and civic leaders.
"To continue improving the region's livability, we must pursue collaborative efforts to maintain economic growth, elevate opportunities for the growing workforce and address emergent challenges like housing affordability and access to health care," he said.
Accompanying materials provided in announcing the list, which was embargoed until 11:01 p.m. Monday, did not say why Northwest Arkansas slipped in the rankings.
Nate Green communications director with the Northwest Arkansas Council declined to speculate until the entire data set can be reviewed. Tim Conklin, executive director at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, speculated it could be related to ever increasing home prices in the region.
The new list for 2023-24 ranks the country's 150 most populous metropolitan areas based on value, desirability, job market and quality of life.
The measures were weighted in part based on a public survey of thousands of individuals throughout the U.S. to find out what qualities they consider important in a place to live.
The methodology also includes data from the National Weather Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI, Sharecare, which is a digital health care platform company, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. News' rankings of the nation's hospitals and public high schools.
"This year's rankings are a reflection of the current economic, social and natural factors that impact a place's livability for its residents," said Devon Thorsby, real estate editor at U.S. News.
"People are considering more than housing when they look at an area's affordability -- they want to know how much goods cost in that area. The ever-present risk for severe weather and a community's ability to recover -- coupled with the area's opportunities for social activities -- are also taken into account when evaluating a best place to live."
Based on the survey, data was categorized into four indexes: quality of life (36%), value (23%), job market (19%) and desirability (22%). The percentages reflect the weight given each category in making the list.
This year, U.S. News expanded its data to better encapsulate a place's strengths and weaknesses, according to a press release announcing the list. In addition to a survey to determine whether people want to live in a given metro area, the desirability index now includes weather temperateness, which evaluates the number of days annually the temperature falls between 33 degrees and 89 degrees Fahrenheit. Desirability also measures establishment-to-population ratio, which assesses the number of restaurants, bars and activities per 1,000 residents. Having been its own index in previous editions of the best places rankings, net migration is also now part of the desirability index.
In addition, as the economic fluctuation and implications of inflation continue to impact cost of living across the country, the value index, which previously focused solely on housing affordability, now factors in price parity using U.S. census data on the general cost of goods within an area.
Conklin, at regional planning, said the region has added over 100,000 people per decade over the last three decades and is projected to reach 974,000 by 2045.
'The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers Metro Area continues to be identified as one of the best places to live in the country," Conklin said. "Being near the top, the region and its planning partners continue to plan for the projected population growth along with future development and infrastructure needs to maintain the high quality of life we all enjoy in the region today and into the future."
Green Bay, Wisc., was the top-ranked city on the list, followed by Huntsville, Ala.
Quick stats for the Northwest Arkansas metropolitan area in 2022-23
Metro population 526,101
Median home price $203,150
Median monthly rent $868
Median age 34.2 years old
Average annual salary $50,470
Unemployment rate 4.7%
Average commute 20.6 minutes
Average high temperatures 67.98° F
Average Low temperatures 44.96° F
Average rainfall 47.9 inches
Source: U.S. News & World Report