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Niche Resources

Which of the Top 20 Amazon HQ2 Cities Provides the Best Quality of Life?

From a staggering list of 238 metro areas across North America, Amazon has narrowed down its list of potential sites for its second headquarters to just 20. By the end of this year, one of the places named below will be home to Amazon HQ2, and its 50,000 high paying jobs.

Much has been made of what Amazon is looking for in its HQ2 locale: shovel-ready sites for their offices, close proximity to an international airport, major roads, and highways, access to good public transportation, a strong university system, and a business-friendly environment, to name just a few criteria.

But Amazon execs have more than a sprawling office park and tax incentives on their minds. Per their RFP, they’re also looking for a place that will fit their culture, and a community they believe their employees will want to live in.

As such, part of what Amazon asked applicants to include were stats on housing options, cost of living, recreational opportunities, the diversity of the population, and data on traffic and commute times. And it just so happens that those are some of the things Niche measures.

In an effort to help Amazon make its decision (but really just for our own jollies), below is a list of Amazon’s top 20*, with a look at Niche’s grades in those areas, and how the places match up against each other. And since comparing and ranking places to live is a major part of what Niche does, the cities are presented in order of how they fall on our list of the Best Places to Live in America.

(Quick side note: Niche measures lots of other things about cities and towns, too, so click on the name of any place on the list to learn more about it.)

Amazon HQ2 Finalists

Place Population Housing Cost of Living Outdoor Activities Diversity Commute
Population 65,171
Housing B-
Cost of Living C
Outdoor Activities A
Diversity A+
Commute A-
Place Raleigh, NC
Population 441,326
Housing B+
Cost of Living B-
Outdoor Activities B+
Diversity A+
Commute A-
Place Austin, TX
Population 907,779
Housing B
Cost of Living B-
Outdoor Activities B+
Diversity A+
Commute A-
Population 24,415
Housing B
Cost of Living C
Outdoor Activities A
Diversity A+
Commute A-
Population 305,305
Housing B
Cost of Living B
Outdoor Activities A-
Diversity A
Commute A
Population 659,009
Housing C-
Cost of Living C-
Outdoor Activities A
Diversity A+
Commute A
Place Denver, CO
Population 663,303
Housing C
Cost of Living C-
Outdoor Activities A
Diversity A+
Commute A
Place Atlanta, GA
Population 456,378
Housing C
Cost of Living C+
Outdoor Activities A
Diversity A
Commute A-
Place Columbus, OH
Population 837,038
Housing B-
Cost of Living B+
Outdoor Activities A-
Diversity A
Commute A-
Place Boston, MA
Population 658,279
Housing C-
Cost of Living C-
Outdoor Activities A+
Diversity A+
Commute A
Place Dallas, TX
Population 1,278,433
Housing B-
Cost of Living B
Outdoor Activities B+
Diversity A+
Commute B+
Place New York, NY
Population 8,461,961
Housing D+
Cost of Living C-
Outdoor Activities A
Diversity A+
Commute A-
Population 643,771
Housing A-
Cost of Living B
Outdoor Activities A-
Diversity A
Commute B+
Place Chicago, IL
Population 2,714,017
Housing C-
Cost of Living C+
Outdoor Activities A-
Diversity A+
Commute A-
Population 846,674
Housing B
Cost of Living B+
Outdoor Activities B+
Diversity A
Commute B+
Population 1,559,938
Housing C
Cost of Living B-
Outdoor Activities A
Diversity A+
Commute A
Place Miami, FL
Population 432,622
Housing D+
Cost of Living C
Outdoor Activities A-
Diversity A-
Commute A-
Population 3,918,872
Housing D
Cost of Living D+
Outdoor Activities A
Diversity A+
Commute A-
Place Newark, NJ
Population 280,139
Housing D-
Cost of Living C-
Outdoor Activities A
Diversity A
Commute A-

Will any of these community and culture factors sway Amazon’s decision? It’s hard to say, especially considering the myriad of other perks they’re looking for. But a couple of things stick out:

For starters, if a plethora of recreational/outdoor activity options, diversity within the population, and decent commute conditions are important to Amazon, they’ve chosen their top 20 wisely. All of these places score highly in those categories. (Keep in mind that our Commute grades are based on more than just driving conditions.)

Second, from the looks of it, big cities may be at a disadvantage. Places like New York City, L.A. and Miami score in the D range when it comes to housing stock, and don’t score much higher in the Cost of Living category. Cities like Washington, D.C., Denver, Atlanta and Boston don’t do much better.

That said, it remains to be seen how important this is to Amazon. Its HQ2 employees will all be highly paid, so a high cost of living may not be a major deterrent.

The most suburban areas — Montgomery County, MD and Northern Virginia — get higher marks in Housing and Cost of Living, but not by much. Still, it’s rumored that those two places, plus Washington, D.C., may have an advantage since Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, and recently purchased the biggest house in the city.

Which city or county will come out on top? Time will tell, and soon. Which place are you putting your money on?

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*A few things to note:

There are actually only 19 places listed here. But we have a good reason! Toronto is on Amazon’s list, and therefore isn’t included in Niche’s data, which sticks to the U.S. Good luck, Toronto!

Montgomery County, Maryland is a finalist, so in the interest of comparing fairly to the other cities, we looked at how Rockville, the biggest city in Montgomery County, matched up against the rest.

“Northern Virginia” is also a finalist, which came about because two neighboring counties — Fairfax and Loudoun — teamed up on their application. Fairfax is more populated, so we looked at stats for Herndon, its biggest city.

Author: Ali Trachta

Ali is the Content Writer/Editor at Niche.