June 26, 2014

Study: Best Cities to Live in Michigan


If you're looking for a place where you can dig your toes in the sand in summer and hit the slopes in winter, Michigan offers the best of both worlds. A nature lover's dream, there are 3,000 miles of shoreline, five national parks and more than 1,300 miles of biking trails to explore. Whether you prefer kayaking the Manistee River or touring Mackinac Island via horse-drawn carriage, you won't be disappointed with what the Great Lakes State has to offer.

After a decline in recent years, Michigan's economy is once again going strong, making it attractive for job seekers. Reasonable home values, a relatively low cost of living, and a top-rated education system are also a big draw for young families. Whether you're a current resident looking for a change of pace or you're planning to move here for the first time, pinpointing the right place to settle down can be a challenge. To streamline your search, the CreditDonkey team has ranked the best cities to live in Michigan.

Study Methodology

Our rankings are based on these five factors:

  1. Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Residents Who Attended Some College
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

Living close to a metro area allows you to enjoy certain conveniences but it can potentially put your safety at risk. For our study, we looked at the odds of becoming the victim of a violent crime to determine which cities are the safest.

The drive to the office can make your workday that much longer if you're spending a significant amount of time tied up in traffic. We considered the average commute time when determining which cities to include in our rankings.

Finding a job that's both financially and emotionally rewarding can be a rare thing but if you're moving to look for a better-paying gig, it helps to know what kind of wages you can expect. Our rankings are based in part on average incomes as well as the percentage of residents who attended some college.

When you're in the mood for dinner out, there's no such thing as too many choices. Our study also looked at the number of restaurants per capita for each city to zero in on those with the widest array of choices.

10 Best Cities to Live in Michigan

10. Kalamazoo

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 114
  • Commute Time: 17.8 minutes
  • Income: $31,189
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 27.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 432 inhabitants

Known for its unique name, Kalamazoo is a bustling urban center of 75,000, located near the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Close to both Grand Rapids and Lansing, Kalamazoo is equally popular among families and professionals. The city, home to Western Michigan University, has an active nightlife and dining scene that features everything from out of the way cafes to Michigan's oldest microbrewery.

Did You Know: Kalamazoo is frequently referenced in popular culture, most notably in the song "(I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo" by the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

9. Novi

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,503
  • Commute Time: 26.6 minutes
  • Income: $78,430
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 18.4%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 55.2%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 401 inhabitants

Novi sits just about halfway between Ann Arbor and Detroit, making it an ideal pick for residents who are looking for a suburban lifestyle with urban convenience. Novi is one of the top cities on our list for both safety and income. The odds of becoming the victim of a violent crime are one in just over 1,500, and residents earn an average of close to $80,000 annually. Novi, considered one of the fastest growing cities in Michigan, has attracted several top employers including Ryder and Magna International.

Did You Know: Novi boasts the largest Japanese population of any city in Michigan, with more than 2,600 residents.

8. Dearborn

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 302
  • Commute Time: 21.6 minutes
  • Income: $46,972
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 22.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 357 inhabitants

Less than ten miles from Detroit, Dearborn is the eighth largest city in Michigan with a population of just over 96,000. Despite its size, Dearborn still has a relatively low crime rate, and commute times average less than 22 minutes. Dearborn's economy is driven largely by manufacturing, and it’s the home of the Ford Motor Company as well as Severstal, a steel production company. The city's population is one of the most ethnically diverse in the state, with residents hailing from a variety of European, African, and Arab nations.

Did You Know: Henry Ford's landmark invention, the Model T, sold for a mere $850 when it first rolled off the assembly line in 1909.

7. Ann Arbor

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 507
  • Commute Time: 19.2 minutes
  • Income: $53,814
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 13.1%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 70.3%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 395 inhabitants

The largest spot on our list in terms of population, Ann Arbor successfully combines small-town charm with a big city feel. The city's economy is largely shaped by the presence of the University of Michigan as well as a thriving tech industry. There's a significant artistic and cultural presence, and residents can satisfy their appetites at one of nearly 300 restaurants.

Did You Know: Actor James Earle Jones, former U.S. President Gerald Ford, and Olympian Michael Phelps are among the University of Michigan's most famous graduates.

6. Southfield

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 205
  • Commute Time: 23.6 minutes
  • Income: $50,281
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 27.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 309 inhabitants

Just 15 miles north of Detroit, Southfield is a prosperous commercial and business center, but it's also a great place to call home. Nicknamed the “Office Capital of the Midwest,” Southfield's most recognizable landmark is the collection of five golden skyscrapers that form the Town Center complex. Sports fans will enjoy catching a Tigers game at nearby Comerica Park, or you could try your luck at the MGM Grand Casino.

Did You Know: Southfield boasts more than 26 million square feet of office space.

5. Troy

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,360
  • Commute Time: 24.6 minutes
  • Income: $86,465
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 15%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 57%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 313 inhabitants

Approximately 25 miles north of Detroit, the city of Troy's appeal is based largely on its low crime rate and moderate housing prices. This affluent community of 82,000 is consistently ranked one of the top places to live, thanks to the strength of its economy and numerous attractions. Commute times are a little longer, averaging just under 25 minutes, but if you're looking for beautiful homes, top-rated schools and world-class dining, Troy is the place to be.

Did You Know: Troy's historic village area offers classes in blacksmithing, woodcarving, and log cabin cooking.

4. Royal Oak

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 801
  • Commute Time: 22.5 minutes
  • Income: $62,453
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 19.6%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 49.2%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 429 inhabitants

Part of the Detroit metro area, Royal Oak is one of the smaller towns on our list but it still offers many of the amenities you'd find in a larger city. Crime rates here are low and commute times are short, with incomes averaging just over $62,000. The downtown area is a popular spot where residents and visitors alike can sample the city's dining, shopping and entertainment scene.

Did You Know: Tim Allen's popular sitcom "Home Improvement" was set in Royal Oak.

3. Livonia

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 658
  • Commute Time: 23.5 minutes
  • Income: $69,009
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 23.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 423 inhabitants

Situated between Detroit and Ann Arbor, Livonia offers easy freeway access to both metro areas, which also makes it a great choice for working professionals. Incomes here gravitate toward the higher end of the scale, averaging slightly over $69,000, and the commute takes less than 24 minutes. The city offers more than 220 restaurant choices, including local favorites Mitchell's Fish Market and Bates Hamburgers.

Did You Know: Livonia is notable for being the birthplace of several professional hockey players, including Mike Modano, Jeff Lerg and Ryan Kesler.

2. Midland

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1108
  • Commute Time: 15.5 minutes
  • Income: $50,497
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 20.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 433 inhabitants

With a population of just over 42,000, Midland is the smallest city in our rankings but it's a favorite among families and seniors. Dow Chemical is one of the city's largest employers, along with Dow Corning and Chemical Bank. Commute times here are the shortest of any city on our list, at just 15.5 minutes, and average incomes pass the $50,000 mark.

Did You Know: Midland is just a short drive from Saginaw Bay, where you can enjoy fishing, golf and natural attractions like the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.

1. Portage

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 614
  • Commute Time: 19.5 minutes
  • Income: $56,895
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 24%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 363 inhabitants

Head south out of Kalamazoo and you'll come to the quiet community of Portage. Originally a Native American Indian settlement, Portage has grown into a city with a diverse economy and close to 50,000 residents. Manufacturing is the cornerstone of the city's economy, and major employers include Stryker Instruments and Pfizer. Outdoorsy folk can explore the town's extensive network of hiking and bike trails while foodies will appreciate the eclectic mix of dining choices.

Did You Know: In the late 1800s, early settlers found that the soil around Portage was ideal for growing celery, earning it the nickname "Celery City."


Each of the cities on our list has its own unique appeal, and every one of them is a great place to live. Ultimately, the best city in Michigan is the one where you and your family feel most at home. Using our rankings as a guide can help to make your decision of where to move that much easier.

Data Sources:

  • U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates
  • FBI, Uniform Crime Reports
  • U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Census

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Follow @CreditDonkey or write to Rebecca Lake at rebecca@creditdonkey.com
Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped consumers make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

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