The 19 best cities in the South to live in after the coronavirus pandemic

  • Business Insider recently looked at the best US cities to move to after the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • We decided to focus on cities in the Southern region of the US that scored well on our national ranking.
  • Three cities in Arkansas, including Little Rock, made the top of this regional ranking.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

If you are considering moving to the Southern region of the US, you may want to consider one of these cities that have plenty of opportunities to work from home and low living costs.

Business Insider recently came up with our list of the best US cities to live in after the pandemic. To do this, we used a variety of metrics from government and academic datasets. This includes looking at the share of jobs that can potentially be done remotely, the pre-coronavirus unemployment rate, and housing costs.

After we collected all our data, we rescaled our figures to a uniform z-score so that we could then calculate an overall score for each metro area.  

You can read more about our data collection and methods here.

After finding our overall best cities, we decided to focus on metros in the South as defined by the Census Bureau. Three cities from Arkansas made the top 20 Southern cities to move to next.

It is important to note that most of our data came from before the pandemic, and the economic fallout from the current situation could have serious effects on different cities. For instance, the large number of job losses and spike in unemployment during the pandemic may have affected some of these cities more than others.

Read on to find out the best Southern cities to live in after the pandemic.

19. Decatur, Alabama

Decatur's cost of living is 16.5% less than the national average, ranking as the 14th-lowest cost of living among metro areas in the South. The population density of 120.1 people per square mile is lower than many of the other metro areas in this region. The pre-coronavirus unemployment rate of this city was 2.4%, lower than the US rate of 3.5% in February.

18. Warner Robins, Georgia

35.0% of jobs can be done from home in this city, higher than most metro areas in the South. About 74.4% of people spend 30% or less of their income on housing, the sixth-highest housing affordability share among metro areas in this region.

17. San Angelo, Texas

San Angelo's population density of 34.9 is the smallest population density among metro areas in the South. This city also has the second-shortest weekly commute among metro areas in this region at two hours and 53 minutes.

16. California, Maryland

51.9% of jobs can be done from home in this metro area, the highest share among all US metro areas. The city also has the ninth-highest total spending per student in elementary and secondary public schools of metro areas in the South, and the school district in the metro area with the most students enrolled spends $13,223 per person.

15. Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington's pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 3.4%, close to the US rate of 3.5% in February. About 70% of people spend 30% or less of their income on housing, indicating a better housing affordability than many other metro areas in the South.

14. Charleston, West Virginia

About 36.7% of jobs can be done from home in Charleston, a higher share than most metro areas located in the South. Charleston also had the seventh-lowest average housing cost of around $611 a month. This city's cost of living is 13.6% lower than the national average.

13. Tallahassee, Florida

In Tallahassee, about 43.4% of jobs can be done from home, the fifth-highest share among metro areas in the South and 14th-highest share among all US metro areas. The pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 2.9%, lower than the US rate of 3.5% in February.

12. Wichita Falls, Texas

Wichita Falls' population density is 57.7 people per square mile, the sixth-smallest population density among metro areas in the South. This metro area's cost of living is 12.4% less than the national average.

11. Harrisonburg, Virginia

Harrisonburg's weekly commute of three hours and 27 minutes was the 19th-shortest commute among metro areas in the South. The city also has a higher total spending per student in elementary and secondary public schools than most metro areas in this region, and the school district in the metro area with the most students enrolled spends $11,711 per person.

10. Morgantown, West Virginia

Among residents who are at least 25 years old, 38.1% have at least a bachelor's degree. This is a higher share than most US metro areas and the 15th-highest share among metro areas in the South. The city also has a higher total spending per student in elementary and secondary public schools than most metro areas in this region, with the school district in the metro area with the most students enrolled spending $11,335 per person.

9. Lawton, Oklahoma

Lawton's weekly commute of three hours and 13 minutes was the ninth-shortest commute among metro areas in the South. This city also has the 10th-lowest population density out of metro areas in this region at 74.3 people per square mile.

8. Jonesboro, Arkansas

Jonesboro is among the top 50 US metro areas with relatively short weekly commutes at three hours and 10 minutes. The cost of living in this city is 16.7% less than the national average. Jonesboro also has a lower population density than most of the other metro areas in the South at 91.3 people per square mile.

7. Little Rock, Arkansas

In Little Rock, 36.6% of jobs can be done from home, a higher share than most metro areas in the South. The city also has a higher total spending per student in elementary and secondary public schools than most metro areas in this region, and the school district in the metro area with the most students enrolled spends $12,515 per person.

6. Charlottesville, Virginia

Before the pandemic, Charlottesville's unemployment rate of 2.3% was below the national rate in February. About 37.5% of jobs can be done from home in this metro area, a higher share than in most metro areas in the South. The metro area also has a lower population density than many of the other metro areas in this region, at 132.9 people per square mile.

5. Athens, Georgia

Before the pandemic, Athens' unemployment rate of 3.0% was below the national rate in February of 3.5%. Athens' cost of living is 8.7% less than the national average.

4. College Station, Texas

The weekly commute in this metro area of three hours and three minutes is the fourth-shortest among metro areas in the South. 42.1% of jobs can be done from home in College Station, the sixth-highest share among metro areas in this region.

3. Durham, North Carolina

About 46.0% of jobs in Durham can be done from home, the sixth-highest share among all US metro areas and the third-highest share among metro areas in the South. Of residents who are at least 25 years old, 48.1% have at least a bachelor's degree, the second-highest share among metro areas in the South.

2. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Fayetteville's weekly commute of three hours and 28 minutes is shorter than most metro areas in the South. This metro area's cost of living, the price level of goods and services compared with prices in the US as a whole, is 11.2% less than the national average.

1. Huntsville, Alabama

Huntsville ranked 13th on our overall city list. About 41.5% of jobs can be done from home, higher than most US metro areas and the eighth-highest share of metro areas in the South. Of residents who are at least 25 years old, 40.3% have at least a bachelor's degree, the 10th-highest share among metro areas in the South.

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