- Four of the top five best cities for veterans are located in Virginia, with Chesapeake in the lead.
- The East Coast has the highest concentration of cities in the top 15 for veterans and their families.
- Most businesses run by ex-militaries can be found in NYC, while Norfolk, VA, checks the largest share of veterans among its population.
- The highest median income among veterans is recorded in Arlington, VA — over $117,000 per year.
- Petersburg, FL, Chesapeake & Arlington, VA, have a 0% unemployment rate among their veterans.
For veterans, transitioning to civilian life and to a new career — while also settling in a place after years of relocations — can certainly pose a challenge. Of course, there are many factors to consider when choosing a city to live in after retiring from the military. At the same time, many are looking for comfortable places with enticing professional opportunities, a large community of veterans and facilities to accommodate their families.
With this in mind, we analyzed American cities to determine which ones checked the most boxes that would be of interest to veterans and help them choose a place to call home. Specifically, we looked at metrics such as the percentage of veterans among the total population, the number of veteran-owned businesses, their employment status and income, the number of veteran health care providers and pediatricians, as well as the air quality and green spaces, among others.
Furthermore, to ensure that we highlight the cities where veterans can tackle their new careers and have the best resources to do so, we also included the number of coworking spaces available in each location. Granted, the transition from military life to an office job can be challenging — whether that’s a remote position in a company or an entrepreneurship opportunity. To that end, coworking spaces help members through a professional, yet flexible environment and the opportunity to gain real-life office experience and build a professional network among a supportive community.
East Coast Home to Most Top Cities for Veterans with Chesapeake, VA, in Lead
Virginia stands out with four of the top five cities for veterans — Chesapeake, Arlington, Virginia Beach and Norfolk. In these locations, veterans and their families can enjoy large communities of former military service members, some of the highest incomes among all of the locations analyzed and even non-existent unemployment rates. Veterans in Virginia also benefit from statewide perks that range from property tax exemptions for disabled veterans to education and employment assistance and even hunting and fishing license privileges.
Certainly, 58 points out of 100 doesn’t sound like much, and the cities analyzed might not be the best in every category, but they do rank toward the top for most, if not all, categories collectively. Without further ado, among all 79 cities and across all 10 metrics, these are the top cities to live in as a veteran.
1. Chesapeake, VA – Total Points: 58.9
With great scores across the board, this Virginia representative is the ultimate spot for veterans to settle in after their military service. Apart from its rich history, suburban feel and great education system, Chesapeake also had one of the highest shares of veterans out of the total population (almost 26,000 for a 14.2% share) and was only surpassed by Norfolk and Virginia Beach. However, one of the most important categories in which Chesapeake shined was the veterans’ unemployment status, which was basically non-existent here because every veteran had a job/career.
At the same time, the median income for veterans in Chesapeake stood at more than $80,000 per year. That was the second-highest in our ranking and was topped in this category by only Arlington. The city also excelled for its many acres of green spaces (the highest number on our list at 230 per 1,000 residents) and great air quality, which makes it an ideal location for outdoor enthusiasts.
2. New York City, NY – Total Points: 55.3
There’s a place for everyone in New York City, and veterans are no exception. In a city that has such a dense population and so much to offer, it might come as no surprise that a significant number of businesses are owned by veterans. More specifically, there are more than 19,000 veteran-owned companies, which was the highest number among all of the cities we analyzed.
Moreover, NYC checked the most veteran-specialized health care providers (three), as well as the highest number of coworking spaces available (367) for anyone who wants to kickstart a business in a flexible work environment. The schools in the Big Apple are also among the best in the country, which is great news for families with kids. And, that doesn’t even include the plethora of educational, cultural and entertainment options available at every corner.
3. Arlington, VA – Total Points: 54.5
Known for hosting the Veterans Day National Ceremony every year, Arlington took the third position in our ranking as one of the best cities for veterans. This was mainly due to having the highest median income (more than $117,000), along with a 0% unemployment rate among veterans who live in the city. Additionally, with a local thriving economy and within proximity of Washington, D.C., Arlington shines as a great place for ex-militaries and their families. Notably, it also benefits from high-ranking schools and a great educational system.
4. Virginia Beach, VA – Total Points: 49.7
Known as an affordable place to live on the East Coast with low tax rates, beautiful scenery and plenty of family-friendly activities, this oceanfront destination is home to the second-largest community of veterans among the cities on our list. Here, 14.4% of residents are former military, which makes it easy for veterans to get together, engage and connect through their shared experiences. At the same time, Virginia Beach also recorded the second-highest number of green space acres available for its residents, as well as the best air quality, thereby making outdoor activities a literal breeze.
5. Norfolk, VA – Total Points: 47.1
Norfolk rounded out the top five best cities for veterans to reinforce Virginia’s appeal among this demographic. In particular, Norfolk is known for being home to the world’s largest naval station. Currently, 82,000 active militaries reside here, but Norfolk is also a great place to live as a veteran because it has the largest share of ex-militaries (an impressive 14.5% of the total population, which accounts for more than 23,000 veterans). Another category where Norfolk stood out was the number of pediatricians available per 100,000 children in the area — 184, which was only surpassed by Boston and the nation’s capital. The air quality in Norfolk is also great, thereby ensuring healthy living for all of its active residents.
6. Washington, D.C. – Total Points: 44.7
Living in the nation’s capital is enticing for many different types of people. Accordingly, when it comes to those who served in the military and the political scene here — as well as the thriving economy — are just some of the reasons to plant roots. A good place for families, Washington, D.C. also claims great schools with high rankings, coming in third place in this category. Likewise, the city was also home to the second-highest number of pediatricians, which is great news for veteran parents and children alike.
Moreover — and perhaps one of the most influential factors that boosted D.C.’s ranking on our list —the median yearly income attributed to veterans in this city stood at more than $77,500, which was the third-highest among all of the cities analyzed.
7. Colorado Springs, CO – Total Points: 41.7
As the first city to represent the nation’s Western region, Colorado Springs performed well across the board. But, as expected, the city excelled when it came to green spaces with nearly 30 acres available per 1,000 residents. The city also had a great school ranking — the fourth-best in our ranking. Yet, the most important factor that could potentially drive veterans to this idyllic spot was the large community of veterans who reside in the city. More precisely, 13.1% of the total population in Colorado Springs are veterans, thereby proving the place’s appeal for both military retirees and their families.
8. St. Petersburg, FL – Total Points: 41
With its warm climate and thriving business scene that generates great job opportunities, the state of Florida caters to veterans in many vital ways. This includes homestead tax exemptions, education and tuition assistance and other special benefits. Across the metrics analyzed, St. Petersburg shined due to its 0% unemployment rate among veterans, as well as the second-highest number of specialized health care providers (two), which was only topped by NYC. The city also has plenty of green spaces for outdoor enthusiasts and a solid number of pediatricians per 100,000 children — 114, making it a great place for families.
9. Boston, MA – Total Points: 40.4
Also excelling in terms of health care, Boston checked two veteran-specialized places, as well as the highest number of pediatricians on our list at an impressive 386 per 100,000 children. Families with kids will also be happy to know that the schools in Boston had the highest rank among all of the cities analyzed. Plus, the city is also home to the Boston College Veterans, which specializes in programs and services that help support veterans and educate the community regarding important issues concerning militaries of all kinds. This ensures that veterans in this area will find a supportive community to join.
10. Chula Vista, CA – Total Points: 40.4
In total, California is home to more than 1.8 million veterans, which is the largest population in the country. As such, Chula Vista rounded out the top 10 best cities for veterans and their families due to high rankings across categories. While the unemployment rate among this demographic was not quite zero, it nevertheless stood at a minor 1.4%, while the median veteran income was more than $70,000 per year. Chula Vista is also known for its scenic locations, parks and beaches and vibrant cultural scene, which ensures that residents here always have something new and exciting to do in their spare time.
In Tampa, two medical providers are specialized in veteran health care and the median income for this demographic stands at almost $57,000, above the average of all the cities analyzed. Seattle shines in terms of the veteran unemployment status, which stands at a mere 1.1%, while in Chicago, veterans looking to start a new career can benefit from the 109 coworking spaces available throughout the city.
108 such flex workspaces are also on the market in Atlanta, boosting its position in our ranking, while the number of businesses here owned by veterans stands at an impressive 10,177. Rounding out the top 15 best cities for veterans, Los Angeles also stands out due to having the second-highest number of veteran-owned businesses (14,635), along with two specialized health care providers for former military members.
Norfolk, VA, Has Highest Share of Veterans, While NYC Checks Most Businesses Owned by Former Militaries
While the leading cities in this ranking were determined by an aggregated score defined by 10 separate categories, certain cities stood out for their particular best-performing metric. Here are the cities that outperformed 78 others in specific categories:
Clearly, the best cities for veterans offer a mix of comfortable living, thriving communities and attractive job opportunities. In this regard, coworking spaces help bridge the gap between their former military experience and a more civilian office by offering a flexible middle ground that can help veterans kickstart a new business after their service.
For this report, we assigned an appropriate metric to quantify key metrics analyzed and then weighted them to reflect their significance in determining the best cities for veterans:
- The share of veterans out of the total population (15% of the total index) – Source: Census (city level)
- The number of businesses owned by veterans (15% of the total index) – Source: Census (metro level)
- The unemployment rate among veterans (indirectly proportional) (15% of the total index) – Source: Census (city level)
- The median income among veterans (15% of the total index) – Source: Census (city level)
- The number of veteran health care providers (10% of the total index) – Source: Access to Care (city level)
- The number of coworking spaces (10% of the total index) – Source: CoworkingCafe (city level)
- The number of acres of green spaces per 1,000 residents (5% of the total index) – Source: Trust Public Land (city level)
- The air quality index (indirectly proportional) (5% of the total index) – Source: EPA (CBSA level)
- The number of pediatricians per 100,000 children (5% of the total index) – Source: The American Board of Pediatrics (county level)
- The school rank (indirectly proportional) (5% of the total index) – Source: World Population Review (state level)
- To compile this study, we analyzed and ranked 79 U.S. cities, each with a veteran population of more than 10,000. We only considered cities with a full data set.
- Data points were analyzed comparatively with the extreme values within the data pool determining the highest and lowest possible scores for each metric.
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