The 2021 Most Neighborly Cities in America

The 2021 Most Neighborly Cities in America

Last year, we set out to find the 25 Most Neighborly Cities in America.

Looking at data around charitable giving, volunteering, and community well-being, we named the 25 cities in the U.S. where you could find the friendliest people to live next door. And after nearly two years living in the COVID-19 pandemic, having good neighbors feels more important than ever before — so we set out to do it again.

This year, the data is a little different. We still looked at important factors like charitable giving and volunteering, but we also scoured the internet for new factors to consider, including which cities are the happiest. We also surveyed people across the nation and learned what it means to be a good neighbor:

  • 79% of people said they’ve done at least one favor for their neighbor in the past year.
  • 62% of people say they hang out with their neighbors at least a few times a year.
  • 66% of people say they have at least two neighbors they can depend on to do favors like watering their plants or picking up their mail.
  • And amid the coronavirus pandemic, 42% of people said they’re now more likely to start relationships with their neighbors, so they can take care of one another.

Using the above data, we came up with a new list of 25 cities where we think you can find the most neighborly people around.

According to our 2021 data, the top 25 Most Neighborly Cities are: 

  1. Madison, Wisconsin
  2. Rochester, New York
  3. Portland, Oregon
  4. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  5. Des Moines, Iowa
  6. Washington, D.C.
  7. Boston, Massachusetts
  8. Seattle, Washington
  9. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  10. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  11. Raleigh, North Carolina
  12. San Jose, California
  13. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  14. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  15. Bridgeport, Connecticut
  16. Salt Lake City, Utah
  17. Spokane, Washington
  18. Oxnard, California
  19. Allentown, Pennsylvania
  20. Indianapolis, Indiana
  21. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  22. Durham, North Carolina
  23. Provo, Utah
  24. Baltimore, Maryland
  25. San Francisco, California

What made all these cities stand out this year as the friendliest and most neighborly? It was a combination of factors from a lot of different studies and data sets (see the end of this article for a more detailed methodology). We looked at:

  • Where people volunteer and do kind acts for their neighbors;
  • Where people give money and donations to charities;
  • Where people are happiest;
  • Where crime rates are low;
  • Where nonprofit organizations thrive, based on how many of them exist in the city per 100,000 residents.

With those factors in mind, the most neighborly city in America in 2021 is…

#1: Madison, Wisconsin

Madison topped this year’s list for a few reasons: It’s rated the #1 happiest city in America, and it also leads the nation in nonprofits per 100,000 residents.

In Madison, many people spend free time volunteering, and many reports doing kind acts for their neighbors — two things we think make a community more neighborly. Madison also has a low rate of crime, making it a safe, happy city with a palpable community bond.

Congratulations to Madison, the most neighborly city in America in 2021.

#2: Rochester, New York

Coming in at #2 is Rochester, a place where people clearly love to help each other out. This city ranks 4th in the nation for neighborly acts and 5th for volunteering. That spirit of helping others is clearly part of the community fabric in Rochester, which also ranks 17th in the nation for both charitable giving and nonprofits per 100,000 residents. We have no doubt that with all that giving spirit, people in Rochester make great neighbors.

Rochester climbed from #10 in 2020 to #2 in 2021.

#3: Portland, Oregon

Third on this year’s list is Portland, Oregon, which ranks in the top 10 in the nation for charitable giving, volunteering, and neighborly acts. Portland was also rated the 17th happiest city in America, so it’s no surprise that happy people make great neighbors, too.

Portland climbed from #5 in 2020 to #3 in 2021.

 

#4: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis must be a great place to live, because it’s in the top 10 cities for happiness, volunteering, neighborly acts and charitable giving. It also ranks 14th in the nations for nonprofits.

Minneapolis climbed from #6 in 2020 to #4 in 2021.

#5: Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines comes in at #5 this year, most notably because it’s a city where nonprofit organizations seem to thrive — Des Moines is ranked 9th in the country for nonprofits per 100,000 residents. It also comes in at #11 for volunteering, and #16 for happiness, making Des Moines an extremely neighborly place overall.

#6: Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C. ranks 6th for both nonprofits and charitable giving (in addition to being 6th overall on our list). D.C. also has a high volunteering rank — 13th in the nation — and the people who live there are pretty happy (21st in overall happiness). That’s a recipe for good neighbors, if you ask us.

Washington, D.C. climbed from #7 in 2020 to #6 in 2021.

#7: Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is a newcomer on this year’s list as a city where people know the value of lending a hand to one another. Boston ranks 4th in charitable giving and 3rd in nonprofits, landing it at #7 overall in 2021.

#8: Seattle, Washington

Seattle moved up the list this year to the #8 spot, mostly due to its charitable giving — 5th in the nation — and the happiness of the people who live there — 7th overall.

Seattle climbed from #13 in 2020 to #8 in 2021.

#9: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh is another new addition to this year’s list, ranking #9 after not cracking the top 25 list in 2020. This year, being 9th in the nation for charitable giving and 11th for its number of nonprofits per 100,000 residents pushed Pittsburgh into the top 10, solidifying its stamp as a great place to find good neighbors.

#10: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Rounding out the top 10 is Milwaukee, another city that didn’t make the rankings last year. By cracking the top 10 rankings in neighborly acts, volunteering and charitable giving, Milwaukee residents are showing other cities what it means to be neighborly.

#11: Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh is kept out of the top 10 by its #54 ranking in nonprofits and #55 in charitable giving. But people in Raleigh still clearly know how to take care of one another — it ranked 3rd in neighborly acts. Plus, Raleigh has one of the lowest crime rates in the U.S.

#12: San Jose, California

San Jose is the second happiest city in the U.S. and has a relatively low crime rate. As a result, this California city ranks highest in the state for its volunteering, charitable giving, and nonprofits.

#13: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Harrisburg, a new addition to the list this year, is a great place for nonprofit organizations — it’s home to the 7th highest concentration of them per 100,000 residents.

#14: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids improved in this year’s rankings, after coming in at #20 last year. A big part of the rise? How happy people are in Grand Rapids, the 12th happiest city in the country.

Grand Rapids climbed from #20 in 2020 to #14 in 2021.

#15: Bridgeport, Connecticut

Bridgeport is home to the 2nd highest number of nonprofit organizations per 100,000 residents, which helped it land a spot on this year’s list. People who live in Bridgeport are also very neighborly toward one another — it ranked 26th in neighborly acts.

Bridgeport climbed from #16 in 2020 to #15 in 2021.

#16: Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City was the 2nd Most Neighborly City in America last year, so it’s #16 ranking might come as a surprise to residents. Salt Lake still ranks near the top in charitable giving, volunteering, and neighborly acts. What caused it to fall in this year’s rankings is that not many nonprofits are based in Salt Lake — as it ranks 70th for nonprofits per 100,000 residents.

Salt Lake City fell from #2 in 2020 to #16 in 2021.

#17: Spokane, Washington

Spokane also fell in this year’s rankings after landing at #8 in 2020. It’s spot on this year’s list is  due to Spokane’s pretty high rankings for volunteering and neighborly acts.

Spokane fell from #8 in 2020 to #17 in 2021.

#18: Oxnard, California

Oxnard is new on this year’s list, coming in at #18. What sets Oxnard apart from so many other cities is how safe it is — it ranked 10th in the nation for lowest crime rates. As the second highest ranked city in California, Oxnard comes in at 20th for happiness of its residents.

#19: Allentown, Pennsylvania

Allentown, another newcomer on the 2021 list, is the 19th most neighborly city in the nation. A big reason for that is the city’s low crime rates — it ranks 16th in the nation for safety. But Allentown is also home to a lot of volunteers. The city ranked 29th for its rates of volunteering.

#20: Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis is a city where people love to help others out. Indy ranks 9th in the nation for volunteering and 23rd for neighborly acts. Those are the two biggest reasons this midwestern city came in at #20 on our Most Neighborly Cities list this year.

#21: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs isn’t new to the Most Neighborly Cities list — it ranked #14 in 2020. But this year, unfortunately, it’s fallen to #21 in the rankings. That’s not because the people of Colorado Springs don’t love to help others out — this city ranked #1 in the nation for volunteering, but was scored fairly high in crime rates and low in charitable giving.

Colorado Springs fell from #14 in 2020 to #21 in 2021.

#22: Durham, North Carolina

Durham must be a great place to live, considering it ranks 17th in the nation for happiness. One reason the people there might be so happy? They spend a lot of time volunteering — Durham is 25th in the nation for volunteering. There are plenty of opportunities to do so, since this city also ranks 21st in the nation for nonprofits per 100,000 residents.

#23: Provo, Utah

Provo more than earned its spot on this year’s list of Most Neighborly Cities. It ranks 2nd in the nation for both volunteering and charitable giving, and has the second-lowest crime rates out of all the cities we analyzed. So why doesn’t Provo rank even higher? Mostly because there aren’t a lot of nonprofits based there — the city ranked 97th for nonprofits per 100,000 residents.

#24: Baltimore, Maryland

When looking at this year’s data, it’s clear that Baltimore is a place where you’ll find great neighbors. This city ranked 7th in the nation for charitable giving and 17th for volunteering. People also love to help out those around them — Baltimore ranked 10th in neighborly acts.

#25: San Francisco, California

Finally, rounding out this year’s list of the Most Neighborly Cities is San Francisco, the 4th happiest city in the country.  This California hub cracks the top 25 because of how many nonprofits are based there — it ranked 5th in the nation for nonprofits per 100,000 residents.

Full Rankings

Methodology

​​Here’s how we determined the most neighborly cities in America in 2021.

We started with a list of the 100 largest metro areas in the country and analyzed them using a combination of surveys, data points, and other factors.

We thought that volunteering and charitable giving capture the spirit of being a good neighbor more than the other factors, so those carried the most weight in our analysis. While neighborly acts certainly determine which cities have good neighbors, it was difficult to find consistent data for all 100 cities, so that category carried the least weight. Here’s how each set of data was weighted:

  • Volunteering: 3
  • Nonprofits per 100,000 residents: 3
  • Charitable giving: 2
  • Happiness: 1
  • Crime: 1
  • Neighborly acts: ½

If any of the above data was not available for a certain city, it was ranked by its state average or the overall average for the data in that category.

Volunteering and Neighborly Acts

Americorps has collected data on volunteering rates in many American cities. We used this data to rank the cities where people did the most volunteering. As doing kind things for others is an important part of being neighborly, volunteering was given one of the highest weights when analyzing all the factors on this year’s most neighborly cities rankings.

Data about neighborly acts also came from Americorps, but was weighted less heavily, because not all the cities had this data available.

Nonprofits per 100,000 residents

Nonprofit data came from Governing, which has analyzed where nonprofits tend to be concentrated in the U.S. For our ranking, we analyzed nonprofits per 100,000 residents in each city, in order to create a consistent measure across cities of all sizes.

Charitable giving

Charitable giving data was analyzed from a number of sources, including Americorps, SmartAsset, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and CNN Money. By compiling rankings and analyses from these different sources, we ranked the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. by how much the average resident gives to charity in a given year.

Happiness

Wallethub has ranked American cities by where residents are the happiest. These rankings used data about emotional and physical well-being, income and employment, community, environment, and more to determine the happiness of each city.

Crime

Crime data for our survey came from Wikipedia, where major U.S. cities are ranked by their crime rates. Supplemental crime data came from BestPlaces.net.

Original Survey Data

In order to collect more context around what it means to Americans to be neighborly, we also surveyed 1,000 people on Aug. 24, 2021, using Pollfish.com. We found:

People in Neighborly cities love to help their neighbors. 

  • 79% of people have done at least one favor for their neighbor in the past year.
  • Only 4.1% say their neighbors are never helpful when needed.
  • Most people (65.8%) have at least 2 neighbors they can rely on to water their plants or pick up their mail if they go out of town.

People in Neighborly Cities like to get social. 

  • 5% hang out with their neighbors at least a few times per year; 29% hang out with neighbors weekly
  • 67% of people go to neighborhood or community events at least a few times per year
  • 40% of people said they actively participate in religious groups while local festivals/craft markets was the second most popular at 35.5%

People in Neighborly Cities value friendliness and trustworthiness in their neighbors.

  • The most popular adjective for “most important quality in your neighbors” was friendliness, with 41.7% of people choosing that option. (2nd most popular was trustworthy at 15.7%).

The pandemic made people more Neighborly.

  • 7% of people claim that they do more favors for their neighbors as a result of the pandemic (40.7% say they number of favors hasn’t changed).
  • The majority of people (53.9%) say they feel more concern for their neighbors because of the pandemic.
  • 5% of people are more likely to start relationships with their neighbors because of the pandemic.

Survey respondents were 48% male and 52% female. They were:

  • 8% ages 16-17;
  • 2% ages 18-24;
  • 25% ages 25-34;
  • 1% ages 35-44;
  • 7% ages 45-54;
  • 2% ages 55 and up.

Respondents came from 48 states and the District of Columbia.