Study: Best Cities to Live in Missouri

The CreditDonkey team has taken the hard work out of finding a new place to call home by ranking the cities to live in Missouri. Whether you prefer country living or the faster pace of the big city, you can't go wrong with a move to America's Heartland.

Whether you pronounce it "Missouree" or "Missouruh," it doesn't take much to feel at home in the Show-Me State. Known as the birthplace of Mark Twain, the headquarters of Anheuser-Busch and the gateway to the West, Missouri is the perfect blend of past, present and future.

Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri's two largest cities, serve as bookends for smaller cities and towns that dot the landscape. To the south lies the hilly forested terrain of the Ozarks, while the Osage and Till plains stretch away to the north and west. The Missouri and Mississippi Rivers weave their way across the state, joining briefly near St. Louis. Aside from its natural appeal, a booming economy and low cost of living combine to attract thousands of new residents each year.

10 Best Cities to Live in Missouri

Study Methodology

In compiling our rankings, we focused on five key factors:

  1. Crime Rate
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Education
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

If you're worried about the potential for crime in a new city, have no fear. Our rankings considered the odds of being the victim of a violent crime and you'll find that the cities we've profiled are among the safest in the state.

Traffic can be a nightmare when you live in or around a larger metro area but the drive to work may be just as frustrating in a smaller town. To help you find the cities with the shortest driver time, we looked at the average commute for each spot on our list.

Tip: Tired of the long commute? Consider public transportation or at least learn how to save money on gas.

If your move is prompted by a career change, it helps to know which cities pay workers the best wages. Each of the 10 cities in our study is ranked based on median household income.

Missouri's residents know that education is important. A number of highly regarded schools are located here, including the University of Missouri and Missouri State. We looked at how each city stacks up in terms of educational attainment, based on the percentage of residents with a bachelor's degree or higher.

Kansas City is synonymous with barbecue, but Missouri's got more on the menu than just ribs and chicken. We ranked each city based on the number of restaurants per capita and highlighted a few of the best places to fill up.

10. Liberty

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 519.5
  • Commute Time: 22.8 minutes
  • Income: $64,848
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 37.5%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 621 inhabitants

Once a frontier trading post, Liberty is now a busy town of nearly 30,000 people located just outside Kansas City. Less than 20 miles from the greater metro area, Liberty features all of the amenities and activities you'd hope to find in a larger city. It also scores well when it comes to overall safety and higher median incomes. As far as restaurants go, you'll find several recognizable chains along with cozy local spots like Ginger Sue's.

Did You Know: The Jesse James Bank Museum on Liberty's historic square was the site of the nation's first peaceful daytime bank robbery, which was attributed to the James Gang.

9. Lee's Summit

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 842.6
  • Commute Time: 24.6 minutes
  • Income: $76,179
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 42%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 642 inhabitants

To the southeast of Kansas City is the larger town of Lee's Summit, home to just over 92,000 residents. Families enjoy the enhanced sense of safety this suburban community provides while professionals are drawn to the higher wages and short average commute. Downtown is where you'll find many of Lee's Summit's specialty shops, local businesses and eclectic restaurant choices, including Henry's Tea Room where you can enjoy a traditional High Tea experience.

Did You Know: Lee's Summit was once home to Cole Younger, who at various times bore the titles of town hero, Confederate solider and notorious bank robber.

8. Maryland Heights

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 474.4
  • Commute Time: 21.5 minutes
  • Income: $55,095
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 37.7%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 352 inhabitants

Maryland Heights is a great choice for residents who want to stay close to the Gateway City while enjoying a small-town feel. Less than 20 miles northwest of St. Louis, Maryland Heights, one the metro area's largest suburbs, shows no signs of slowing down. Education and manufacturing are the cornerstones of the local economy, but hospitality is quickly gaining ground, thanks to attractions like the Hollywood Casino.

Did You Know: The Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum at Creve Coeur Airport features nearly 50 restored vintage aircraft from the Golden Age of Flight era.

7. Ballwin

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,691.9
  • Commute Time: 25.2 minutes
  • Income: $83,441
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 53%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 823 inhabitants

Ballwin is another offshoot of St. Louis, located roughly 22 miles west of the metro area. Home to just over 30,000 people, Ballwin distinguishes itself as one of the safest and most affluent communities on our list. The city came into being in the 1830s as a stopover for those traveling between St. Louis and Jefferson City, and has since evolved into a booming suburban community. Faraci's is the top local pick for St. Louis style pizza but if you're feeling more adventurous, try the fusion-inspired sushi at Nippon Tei.

Did You Know: Manchester Road is the city's oldest publicly traveled thoroughfare.

6. Columbia

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 232.4
  • Commute Time: 16.6 minutes
  • Income: $43,084
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 54.1%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 365 inhabitants

One of Missouri's largest cities, Columbia sits just over 30 miles north of Jefferson City. Home to the University of Missouri, Columbia's economy is largely driven by education, with healthcare coming in a close second. Education is also important to the city's residents, more than half of whom hold a college degree. When they're not cheering on the Mizzou Tigers on game day, residents enjoy other pursuits like fishing at Finger Lakes State Park or strolling along the Avenue of the Columns on 8th Street.

Did You Know: The University of Missouri was the first public university to be founded west of the Mississippi River.

5. St. Charles

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 660.6
  • Commute Time: 21 minutes
  • Income: $57,428
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 33.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 365 inhabitants

St. Charles is a city that's rich in history and overflowing with modern-day appeal. It was here that Lewis and Clark began their famous journey west and pioneers first set foot on the Santa Fe Trail. There are plenty of places to shop and outdoor attractions to explore, or you could try your luck at the Ameristar Casino. If you're in the mood for St. Louis style ribs with all the fixins', Hendricks BBQ is one of the city's top-rated restaurants.

Did You Know: St. Charles served as Missouri's first capital from 1821 to 1826.

4. Jefferson City

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 166.3
  • Commute Time: 14.6 minutes
  • Income: $48,201
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 33.7%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 340 inhabitants

Jefferson City sits on the banks of the Missouri River, roughly halfway between Missouri's eastern and western borders. Jefferson City has the shortest commute of any city in our study, averaging less than 15 minutes, and it also features a lower overall cost of living. The state capital was moved here in 1826 and government continues to be the lifeblood of the city's economy. If you need to make a quick trip to Kansas City or St. Louis, Amtrak's Missouri River Runner makes daily stops in Jefferson City.

Did You Know: In 2013, Jefferson City was named the Most Beautiful Small Town in America by Rand McNally.

3. Kirkwood

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 811.4
  • Commute Time: 20.7 minutes
  • Income: $72,946
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 61.1%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 483 inhabitants

Nicknamed the "Queen of the St. Louis Suburbs," Kirkwood features safe neighborhoods, higher salaries and excellent schools, all of which are highly prized by its residents. The historic downtown area, known for some of the best dining and shopping in the city, is also where you'll find the Kirkwood Farmer's Market. In the summer, downtown is buzzing with people who are drawn to the annual Peach Festival, while in winter, you can enjoy a dazzling fireworks display during the holidays.

Did You Know: Kirkwood is notable for being the first planned community west of the Mississippi River.

2. Chesterfield

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 2,067.8
  • Commute Time: 22.6 minutes
  • Income: $96,851
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 64.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 312 inhabitants

The city of Chesterfield is the result of a merger of several different communities that sprang up during the 19th century. Today, Chesterfield is recognized as one of the premier suburban communities in the St. Louis area. Although homes are slightly more expensive compared to some of Missouri's other cities, residents earn some of the highest incomes. Violent crime is extremely rare and the average commute is relatively short, although it may take longer if you work in the metro area.

Did You Know: Chesterfield Commons has been called the world's longest strip mall, coming in at just shy of two miles long.

1. Webster Groves

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,096.8
  • Commute Time: 20 minutes
  • Income: $81,399
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 61.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 480 inhabitants

Webster Groves developed in the late 1800s as an alternative community for St. Louis residents who were looking for a quieter, safer place to live. Today, Webster Groves is one of the metro area's most affluent and desirable suburbs, thanks to its higher median incomes and affordably priced homes. Popular among both families and retirees, the city also attracts plenty of students who come seeking to complete their education at Webster University. Old Webster is where you'll find quaint shops and plenty of historic charm, while the Old Orchard area features an up-and-coming entertainment and dining scene.

Did You Know: The land where Webster Groves is found was originally part of the Louisiana Territory.

While cities like St. Louis and Kansas City are unmatched when it comes to job opportunities, nightlife and things to do, the cities in our study have a slight edge in terms of the overall quality of life residents enjoy. While each of these communities are unique, they all share features that make them the finest places to live in Missouri.

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

The Top 20 Cities to Live in Missouri

RankCityViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute TimeMedian Household Income% Bachelor's Degree or HigherPeople per Restaurants and Bars
1Webster Groves1 in 1,096.820$81,39961.2%480.3
2Chesterfield1 in 2,067.822.6$96,85164.2%311.7
3Kirkwood1 in 811.420.7$72,94661.1%483.4
4Jefferson City1 in 166.314.6$48,20133.7%340.0
5St. Charles1 in 660.621$57,42833.3%365.2
6Columbia1 in 232.416.6$43,08454.1%365.2
7Ballwin1 in 1,691.925.2$83,44153.0%822.8
8Maryland Heights1 in 474.421.5$55,09537.7%351.9
9Lee's Summit1 in 842.624.6$76,17942.0%642.1
10Liberty1 in 519.522.8$64,84837.5%621.1
11St. Peters1 in 448.424.2$70,85933.5%289.2
12Cape Girardeau1 in 158.313.8$39,56531.6%335.2
13O'Fallon1 in 1,090.126.3$77,21038.3%589.8
14University City1 in 247.721.7$55,16651.9%457.5
15St. Joseph1 in 239.416.4$42,24820.4%436.0
16Gladstone1 in 353.921.7$51,49626.3%700.8
17Joplin1 in 175.915.7$38,19222.1%298.3
18Blue Springs1 in 412.924.9$66,50928.8%558.0
19Florissant1 in 661.323.9$51,52920.6%428.3
20Wentzville1 in 517.628.1$72,88232.5%547.6

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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