For Remote Workers, These U.S. Cities Are Great Places to Live

The Wall Street Journal identifies cities with the attributes that people say they want most when working remotely. Use our tool to find the best city for you.

Springfield, Mo., topped The Wall Street Journal’s list of places to work remotely. The area has a relatively low cost of living and access to high-speed broadband, and downtown has many bars, restaurants and theaters. Barrett Emke for the Wall Street Journal

When people think of great places to work remotely, what usually comes to mind is some resort-worthy locale like a beach in Hawaii or North Carolina, or a cabin in the Rockies.

But what about Springfield, Mo.?

The Springfield metropolitan area, with a population of about 480,000 people, topped The Wall Street Journal’s list of great places to work remotely. Other cities in the top 10 include Conway, Ark., Kansas City, Kan., and Lafayette, Ind., a metro area of about 225,000 people that was recently named the top-ranked emerging housing market, according to The Wall Street Journal/Realtor.com Emerging Housing Market Index.

The Wall Street Journal created the ranking of great places to work from home by first asking the survey firm Ipsos to conduct a nationwide poll in August 2022, identifying 10 top factors that people said they cared most about in a remote-work location. The Journal then weighted those factors to come up with our list of cities and towns that fit those priorities.

The list, of course, can’t take into account every reason remote workers move to a particular city. People may choose a city because that is where they grew up, or where their family is, or because they really do only want that beach or mountain view.

But the list does provide a window into places that often aren’t on the radar of remote workers, even though they offer many of the qualities that people say they are looking for, such as affordability, high-speed internet and more living space. And as more people have the opportunity to work remotely, the list—and the interactive tool we’ve created that allows people to plug in their own priorities—can be a handy resource in widening the potential places that remote workers can consider. (See the full methodology behind the list.)

Not jet-setters

Fully remote workers make up about 13% of working Americans, or about 25 million individuals, according to Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom. The large majority of them are call-center employees, or do work such as data entry or information-technology support. In other words, they aren’t work-from-anywhere jet-setters with high salaries.

“Somewhere with cheap housing, low crime and good schools within the U.S. will be a huge magnet for these folks, because if you’re making $74,000 a year, you can have a great family lifestyle, which is maybe harder to do in New York or San Francisco on that salary,” Prof. Bloom says.

Kenneth and Katie Soldink at home in Springfield, Mo. Mr. Soldink has worked remotely in Springfield for a Denver-based company since 2015. ‘I’m getting, essentially, a Denver salary for Springfield cost of living,’ he says.   Photo: Barrett Emke for the Wall Street Journal

Places, that is, such as Springfield, which is known as the Queen City of the Ozarks and possesses several of the top 10 factors. Among them: a relatively low cost of living; high-speed broadband; easy access to an airport that connects to large hubs; and a host of parks, restaurants and art venues.

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Kenneth Soldink, a web developer for Academic Impressions, a Denver-based provider of professional development training for higher-education institutions, has worked remotely from Springfield since 2015. His wife grew up outside of Springfield and still had family in Springfield, so the two moved from Denver when she landed a job there. The rent on their three-bedroom, two-bathroom house is about half what it would cost in Denver, he says.

The lower cost of living lets the couple take weekend trips—“like going up to Kansas City and saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to go to a four-star restaurant every night for the weekend,’” Mr. Soldink says. Or going to Santa Fe, N.M., for a weeklong anniversary trip and buying art.

During the pandemic lockdowns, the couple could also afford to donate to affected local businesses and help out family members and friends.

“I’m getting, essentially, a Denver salary for Springfield cost of living, so we had the opportunity to help,” Mr. Soldink says.

Top 10 Places for Remote Workers

These locales top The Wall Street Journal ranking of great places to live if you can work from home

RankCity, state (county)Households with access to 100 mbps internetHouse price*Lower cost of living (percentile)Average house size (sq. ft.)Monthly price for high-speed broadbandUnemployment rateProximity to airport (percentile)Restaurants per household (percentile)Arts venues per household (percentile)Households within half a mile of a park
1Springfield, MO (Greene)100%$308,84194th1,850$32.802.15%64th87th65th68.8%
2Joplin, MO (Jasper)100%$203,24097th1,728$38.502.35%22nd66th51st43.6%
3Evansville, IN (Vanderburgh)100%$183,09371st1,739$40.002.87%34th81st60th8.8%
4Conway, AR (Faulkner)100%$288,45095th2,034$39.403.12%71st43rd15th29.8%
5Lafayette, IN (Tippecanoe)100%$318,49887th2,062$40.202.64%48th76th51st51.8%
6Huntington, WV (Cabell)100%$148,17766th1,683$33.003.70%31st92nd84th43.7%
7Kansas City, KS (Wyandotte)100%$191,207100th1,482$40.003.59%86th27th9th82.9%
8St. Louis, MO100%$184,12541st1,389$40.003.25%89th94th82nd46.1%
9Wichita, KS (Sedgwick)100%$286,62577th2,067$49.903.06%96th69th47th41.3%
10Fort Wayne, IN (Allen)100%$281,85674th1,883$39.703.10%85th48th54th6.4%

*Reflects average of monthly median listing price, January-November 2022. Read more about our methodology.

Sources: BroadbandNow.com; Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness; OurAirports.com; Realtor.com; Trust for Public Land; Moody’s Investors Service; U.S. Census Bureau.

The overall cost of living in the Springfield region is 12.6% lower than that national average, according to Victoria Pratt, senior vice president of economic development at the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. Housing costs are 25.5% lower than the national average and utility costs are 13.8% less, she says.

Broadband speed was the top criterion used to create the remote work index, because people said that was the factor they considered most important. Springfield’s recently updated internet service put the area at the top of the list, thanks to a high percentage of households with access to internet speeds of 100 megabits or more per second (the higher the number, the speedier the service) and at a low cost.

“The biggest thing for me was getting gigabit internet, and luckily that has been really good,” Mr. Soldink says. When he learned the local utility, City Utilities of Springfield, was planning to lay fiber throughout the city, “I was always calling them every quarter, like, when are you coming to our area?”

He got the new service about eight months ago. “It has just been a game-changer for me,” he says. “Now I can do off-site database backups.”

Working remotely gives Mr. Soldink time to pursue hobbies such as pottery, in which he takes a self-directed class once a week during a midday break from work. Photo: Barrett Emke for the Wall Street Journal
Restaurants and art

Springfield is just one of many potential cities that are ideal for remote workers. Change the criteria on the interactive tool, and all sorts of cities pop up that might have been easily overlooked.

Looking for a low cost of living, lots of restaurant and art options, and a youthful population, for instance? Try Athens, Ga., or Savannah, Ga., which rate highly.

Or maybe you want to consider Florida, with lots of sunshine, plenty of supersize houses with yards and no state income tax. More people moved to Florida in 2022 than any other state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Journal’s recommended cities in Florida include Yulee, on the Florida-Georgia line near Amelia Island, and Navarre and Miramar Beach in the Florida panhandle. For the biggest homes in a city with the lowest cost of living, the list suggests looking inland at Kissimmee, south of Orlando.

If your priority is no taxes, another state to consider is Texas. For the fastest Wi-Fi and lowest unemployment rate, Austin ranks highest. Care mostly about a big, thriving population of young professionals, moderate temperatures in January and nightlife? It’s still Austin, followed by Dallas and Plano, a big bedroom community just north of the city. If you’re looking at those same criteria, but prefer someplace other than Texas, the list suggests you consider New York City, Nashville, Denver and Seattle.

Then again, if Nashville’s cost of living, which has increased along with its population over the past decade, is a turnoff, but you like Tennessee and want moderate summer weather in a fairly large city with lots of parks and plenty of people in their 20s and 30s, our list includes Knoxville and Chattanooga.

If the mountains are more to your taste, Western states have several sizable city options with a lower cost of living, fast Wi-Fi and plenty of restaurants, including Boise, Idaho; Fort Collins, Colo.; Provo, Utah; and Boulder, Colo. The smaller Idaho towns of Pocatello, near the Snake River, and Coeur d’Alene, set on a lake just across the Washington state line, also rank highly.

The Carolinas have several city options that rank highly for easy access to parks, plentiful art venues and a good job market (which could be important if your partner will be looking for work locally). The top ranked are Chapel Hill, N.C., Durham, N.C., Charleston, S.C., and Asheville, N.C.

If you want moderate weather in January and July, large homes and access to parks and the arts, some good options are Columbia, Md.; Broomfield, Colo.; and Lexington, Ky.

If you have a growing family, then larger, more affordable homes in a fairly large city may top your list of priorities, along with fast Wi-Fi to accommodate work-from-home and all the kids’ streaming devices. You may want to explore Wichita, Kan.; Lincoln, Neb.; and Greensboro, N.C.

Seattle has attracted people who can work remotely for companies based in higher-cost cities. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
San Fran to Seattle

Companies based in high-cost cities such as San Francisco that have gone remote say they have seen some employees moving to cities with relatively lower costs of living.

When Crunchbase Inc., a San Francisco-based sales intelligence software company, switched to a remote-first policy in 2021, some employees requested to move to cities or regions including Seattle, Southern California, Denver, Miami and New York.

Shanee Ben-Zur, chief marketing and growth officer, moved to the Seattle area from San Francisco with her husband in 2021, partly to be closer to family. She and her husband were able to purchase a single-family home with a backyard, something the couple wouldn’t be able to get for the same amount of money in San Francisco.

While the cost of living in Seattle isn’t exactly low, she says her dollar stretches farther there. Now she and her husband can each have a proper work-from-home office, which the couple’s one-bedroom loft in San Francisco couldn’t accommodate.

“It is nice to have a transition,” she says. “I’m a homeowner now.”

Mr. Smith is a reporter in The Wall Street Journal’s New York bureau. He can be reached at ray.smith@wsj.com. Mr. Corrigan is a rankings reporter at the Journal and can be reached at tom.corrigan@wsj.com. Mr. French is a graphics editor at the Journal and can be reached at jason.french@wsj.com.

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