Santa Cruz, Calif.

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Strictly looking at economic criteria, Santa Cruz wouldn’t be a first or fifth choice: Labor- force participation is not very high, but rent and unemployment are. However, the culture and entertainment provided by Santa Cruz’s new-age vibes and retro boardwalk is enough to draw in crowds of college students. Aside from this, the city is very accessible, whether by roller blade or bus. This leads to a No. 1 ranking in quality of life among small metros. The city population is also diverse and fairly well educated, thanks in part to the University of California’s Santa Cruz campus.

#10 Santa Cruz, Calif.

POPULATION: 272,478
STUDENTS: 33,096
RANKING DETAIL:
#7 COLLEGE EDUCATED
#9 DIVERSITY

Quality of life

#6 CITY ACCESS
#1 ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
#19 BARS AND RESTAURANTS

Economics

#17 YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT
#11 LABOR FORCE
#15 INNOVATION
#20 RENT

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